Monday, 17 March 2008

Residents oppose plans for revamp of traditional Galway city area

RESIDENTS OF Galway city's "West" neighbourhood where writer Walter Macken was born have expressed opposition to "environmental improvements" proposed by Galway City Council.

The Small Crane and Henry Street "enhancement" scheme aims to "improve the quality of the public realm" with "landscaping, paving, public lighting", according to the council.

It also aims to "rationalise and co-ordinate" parking and traffic, and "promote an inclusive and accessible environment" in line with commitments to the Barcelona declaration on accessibility.

However, long-time "West" resident and arts administrator Paraic Breathnach says the plan is "no more than gentrification to facilitate a proposed hotel development nearby and to increase property values and rates". The plan "poses a serious threat to the fabric of a close-knit community", he says.

"This bourgeoisification is being introduced without adequate consultation, because the local authority is embarrassed about its industrial past," Mr Breathnach told The Irish Times.

As a century-old locality within walking distance of Galway city centre, the "West" was home to employees of mills, factories and workers on the Eglinton Canal. Its community atmosphere was captured by photographer Jane Talbot in an exhibition entitled Knock, Knock which was so successful that it was exhibited twice at Galway Arts Centre in 2006.

Ms Talbot has maintained gardens at Walter Macken's birthplace and other parts of the neighbourhood. She said that while she favoured proposals by the local authority to plant trees, she felt the whole scheme was "too much too soon" in an area ignored for years. "This a real, live residential area, not a shopping precinct," she said.

Sally O'Shaughnessy (77), who was born in her home in the "West", said that when the local authority owned the terraces it was "pure hell" to get repairs done. "Now, all of a sudden, you want to change everything in our area that we love so much," she has said in a submission to the local authority.

The West Residents Association has already filed objections to a plan to construct a multistorey hotel with conference, leisure and restaurant facilities on the site of the old Connaught Laundry in St Helen's Street.

The council denies the "enhancement scheme" is linked to any developer-led plans in the vicinity.

A council spokeswoman said that the model for the plan is available on its website, and it is hoped to submit the plan for approval of councillors within the next two months.

The Irish Times

1 comment:

Shane said...

Galway Cycling Campaign
Feachtas Rothaíochta na Gaillimhe
c/o Galway One World Centre, Bridge Mills, Galway.



For immediate release


Small Crane Scheme will make cycling to school illegal say cyclists

The Galway Cycling Campaign has expressed "serious reservations" about the City Council's "enhancement scheme" proposed for the streets around the Small Crane area in the West of the city. Cyclists have lodged objections to the new one-way street system proposed by city architects for area. In a reply to the public consultation process, which closed on Tuesday, the campaign group points out that the scheme will make it illegal for children to cycle to school and illegal for children to cycle up and down outside their own houses on small residential streets. It is also pointed out that the use of one-way streets makes cycling generally less convenient. Concerns have also been expressed about the plans to close the Small Crane to traffic - again on the grounds that it cuts off a useful short cut for cyclists. The GCC has proposed that the scheme be amended to retain two-way access for cyclists on all the affected streets - it is proposed to do this by using selective road closures similar to that found at Wellpark shopping centre - where the road is blocked to cars but remains open to cyclists.

In separate submissions, concerned citizens have taken issue with the use of one-way streets in a scheme that the city council officials have described as a "Home zone" (a concept for a street where children have priority). It has been pointed out that design guidance on "Home zones" in the US and Scotland discourages the use of one-way streets because they increase traffic speeds. It has also been pointed out to the city's planners that Canadian researchers have found that child pedestrians are 2.5 times more likely to be injured on one-way streets compared to two-way streets. In the US, over a 100 cities have converted one-way streets back to two-way use as a way of increasing the "livability" of city streets. US "livable streets" activists have described one-way streets as creating "race tracks" for cars, negatively impacting local communities and pedestrian access, hurting property values and hurting down town businesses.