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Echoes of Dublin's Wood Quay disaster in Galway?

category galway | environment | news report author Friday July 31, 2009 18:03author by Fred Johnston Report this post to the editors

AIB get their way

AIB plans to knock part of the mediaeval structure in Galway are approved

In spite of objections by An Taisce and Galway City Council's own Heritage Officer, Allied Irish banks have been granted approval by Galway City Council to demolish part of the mediaeval Lynch's Castle in the city's Shop Street in a move that only a few years ago would have been considered farcical and impossible. Oddly, The City Tribune newspaper's account of the matter (July 31st) starts with a paragraph that reads like a PR hand-out, stating how reconstruction will "see the consolidation of their regional operations and the doubling of staff numbers," which is a clear declaration straight from AIB. According to the newspaper, An Taisce consider that the application is "out of keeping with the surrounding townscape," and City Council Heritage Officer Jim Higgins echoed this.

But Galway's new City Council, ruled by a Faustian pact between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to keep awkward Lefties and opponents of development and The Salthill Airshow at bay, over-ruled even their own man.

Lynch's Castle is a Protected Structure. But this isn't stopping the bankers, who intend to remove buttresses and what they term 'later additions' to the edifice. A three-storeyed structure with glass facade will serve new premises and a bigger bank.

Those of us old enough to remember the devastation wrought by 'development' in Dublin's Wood Quay in the 'Seventies, culminating in the burying forever of the oldest excavated Viking settlement in Europe, may give pause at this latest act of planning barbarity in the soi-disant City of Culture, whose idea of culture seems increasingly to be based around a philosophy of knocking things down. Another department of Galway City Council has opposed development of the Western Writers' Centre in the city to the degree where the Centre pointedly refused even to apply for grant-aid this year. The Council's reported order that archeological and architectural features 'be retained and displayed on site' is ominously reminiscent of the 'Seventies argument which permitted artifacts at Wood Quay to be removed to the National Museum before cement was poured. Is this act of heritage destruction to be what we will remember the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael City Council in Galway for?

author by Conorpublication date Fri Jul 31, 2009 19:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There should be direct action to halt any such work.

Is there anyone form the west organising opposition rallies, protests, occupations etc?

There should also be protests in other cities highlighting these events etc

author by Billy idlepublication date Sat Aug 01, 2009 00:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Still screwing the country. Unfortunately on nearly every county council West of the Shannon the combination of FF/FG continue to threaten unique Irish heritage and culture at every turn. Just goes to show (and its relevant to the current economic melt down in the country) that these rotten establishment parties will continue to indulge in damaging and selling out this country no matter what because they know nothing else but the toxic combination of corporate cronyism, gombeen and stroke poltics added and abetted by a sycophantic corporate estaiblishment media.

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Sun Aug 02, 2009 18:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is difficult to know how Galway City Council found it necessary even to over-rule their own Heritage Officer, Mr Jim Higgins, and one would not be surprised if he resigned in protest and made a proper issue out of this. At the very least, the City Council need to offer clarification to the people of Galway as to how they could give permission to AIB to renovate and/or demolish part of this mediaeval building. Clearly this is a cultural issue; and in a city that values its cultural reputation, it would be scandalous were this issue not to be clarified.

Crests and decorative stonework on Lynch's Castle, Galway
Crests and decorative stonework on Lynch's Castle, Galway

author by Tpublication date Tue Aug 04, 2009 21:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I presume this is in the centre of Galway city. I would urge you to go down there and get a bunch of pictures showing it in the context of the street and then a few closeups from different angles. At least that way there might be some record of the damage that is about to be done. And then please post them here.

author by old codger - pensionerpublication date Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We have to organise and educate the people with truthfull information on issues like this. If we don't fight against corrupt dealing between politcians and bankers, developers etc then this country is doomed.
Any ideas on how we can get through to the public in this media contrrolled state?
It is not only the banks that have contempt for the people, their friends in government also share this arrogant attitude. The government are alowing the banks to do exactly what they did before, to bring this country to its knees. Of course they pretend that they have the interests of the tax payer in mind. In reality they have the interests of their friends in mind. This is the Fianna fail ethic.
Unfortunately the people still allow this corrupt political system to rule. When you elect crooks you get crime.
It will be ongoing for us if we do not organise against what is happening in ireland.
VOTE NO TO LISBON. the choice is on a treaty not weather we remain in the European Union this is just another scam to make us afraid.

author by galwegianpublication date Wed Aug 05, 2009 17:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Hertiage Officer of local authorities can only make recommendations. His/her decisions are not binding on either the planning officers and the Council - unless voted into development plans.

Dont worry unduly about this case as I am sure An Taisce will issue an objection in due course, they should be considered a good ally to the heritage wing of the Council in this regard.

author by boredpublication date Wed Aug 05, 2009 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My understanding of this is that the medieval tower house is to remain untouched by the development.

What is being demolished is soley the extension that was added in the 70s on Upper Abbeygate Street.

The OP reads a bit sensationalist tbh. However if it were true that any of the original building were to be touched or harmed I would be the first to lend a hand in direct action.

As for the last post, I have it on reliable authority that the organisation of which you speak the heritage wing of the council act in tandem at times to see that things are sorted to their liking. This will go the appeals board and hopefully be turned down.

author by boredpublication date Wed Aug 05, 2009 18:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

found this pic of what is proposed to be demolished. not the tower house.

as for fred's op, it wasnt the council as in the politicians that overruled the heritage officer, it was the planning office and civil servants.....

lynchs castle showing the 1970s extension on the side
lynchs castle showing the 1970s extension on the side

author by infopublication date Thu Aug 06, 2009 00:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Another department of Galway City Council has opposed development of the Western Writers' Centre in the city to the degree where the Centre pointedly refused even to apply for grant-aid this year."

This part of the article seems somewhat off the wall and has nothing to do with the issue being raised here, if indeed there is an issue, which there may well be...

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Thu Aug 06, 2009 03:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Council overrules Heritage Officer and An Taisce" - So reads the sub-headline on the City Tribune newspaper report on the affair last week. Clearly, it was Galway City Council did the over-ruling. "The bank had sought permission last year for the overhaul on what is a Protected Structure. The plans involve the demolition of later additions to the castle, including the removal of buttresses, and repairs to the existing castle." the articles continues. One would indeed hope that only the later side wall is indicated here, but there are clearly concerns and it will be too late to voice them when the hammers get to work. Please note also that the phrase, 'Protected Structure,' could not apply to the modern side wall, surely, but to the main mediaeval building; so let's keep our eyes open.

author by tinabraxton - Colorado Indymedia (USA)publication date Fri Aug 07, 2009 07:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm sorry to see this happening. I remember reading, with horror, about Dublin Quay. I was in school at the time and had a huge argument with my professor. She insisted that people in Ireland wanted parking lots and would have them, no matter what silly people like me thought about it.

Now, the crises multiply so fast, we are hard pressed to keep up.

In our southern state of Alabama, an ancient mound, built by a vanished tribe of Indians is slated to be demolished, to make way for a Sam's Club (part of Walmart). Malta's ancient temples are threatened with encroachment. The ancient sculptures of Angkor Wat are regularly plundered and broken up, so the pieces can be sold for money. It is everywhere.

I don't think the motivation is a desire to wipe out the past. It's not about some misguided idea of Progress. It's just greed.

author by paul o toolepublication date Sun Aug 09, 2009 18:36author email pauljotoole at eircom dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

When they poured concrete over wood key having established that this was the likley place of the first settlement of Dubh Linn, they done what only the most inept, unscrouplous, indifferent, and incompetent twits to walk the roads of this country could do, burying our past forever.....they put An Bord Pleanala on top of it as a fitting tribute of their stupidity and ignorance.
You could not write this as a fiction because it would not follow logic or have a viable conclusion to bring it to its end ....but in ireland of the fools....its an everyday occurence.

Our past being destroyed is unwritten policy. A people without a past to grasp have no future....only now.....and in the now all people know what to do is consume. With a revolutionary past being torn from us at every oppertunity...its missing from our education, our folklore, our songs, our plays, our history...there is no future to imagine...no past to draw from...no dream of things to come or what form they should take....only now.

author by Fred Johstonpublication date Tue Aug 11, 2009 13:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It should be noted that Galway's record on preserving its heritage is not good. The mediaeval road discovered near Spanish Arch has been allowed to slowly bury itself while a museum was built beside it! A plaque noting where Wolfe Tone once acted on the theatre has disappeared, as has a post-box dating from Trollope's time as post-master in the area. There are plans to attempt to renovate the Bank of Ireland building on Eyre Square. It is not clear what the city means when it describes itself as a 'city of culture.'

author by boredpublication date Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I told ye guys this would be the case. The Heritage Officer and An Taisce are acting in tandem to save the city's heritage....not sure how his boss's would take it though but here's the story from today's Galway Independent:

Lynch's Castle revamp approval 'disappointing' - An Taisce

Written by Marie Madden

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

An Taisce has branded Galway City Council's decision to grant planning permission for a revamp of the AIB at Lynch's Castle "disappointing" and blasted the authority for ignoring concerns over the development. In a comprehensive statement, Derrick Hambleton of the Galway branch of An Taisce outlined a number of issues with the proposed plans, including the overuse of glass in the new building.

A glazed façade onto Abbeygate Street is a major source of contention as the protected structure is situated at the centre of Galway's Architectural Conservation Area.

"It is our contention that it would be possible, and should be recognised as such, that in demolishing the modern extensions, and the bland grey wall to the rear of Lynch's Castle, that any replacement building should more appropriately follow the style and character of the adjacent neighbouring buildings in Upper Abbeygate Street towards, which it will face."

The group also called for more weight to be given to the opinions of the city's Heritage Officer, who is a "man with unrivalled knowledge where this city's historic buildings are concerned".

An Taisce have now appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanala.

author by Le Ducpublication date Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is still puzzling to me how Galway City Council can over-rule their own Heritage Officer, or why they should do so. If these officers have no function, then why are they there? Why isn't the Galway public asking about this?

author by boredpublication date Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As I said above, i believe their role is only to make recommendations, much like the Environment Officers and Transport Officers. These are then acted upon or ignored depending on the Planning Office or the Directors of each department. I think another issue lies in the fact that they are propbably only mid-hierarchy.....

again though An Taisce are objecting to the use of glass in the new build. So the old tower house is not going to be knocked down.

author by Galway Businessman.publication date Wed Aug 12, 2009 23:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"So the old tower house is not going to be knocked down. "

That was never on the cards.

They are just maintaining the old building and revamping fairly modern additions.
(Such additions have been "put on" and "taken off" for centuries.)
No sweat.

Without maintenance those ancient buildings will fall down.

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Thu Aug 13, 2009 11:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don't think knocking down the old tower house was ever an issue, that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. What we don't yet know is what damage will be done to the town-house by these suggested renovations, inside or out. Anyway, I had thought that the banks were griping about not having money and the like - they don't lend to young couples for mortgages any longer and they don't lend to small businesses, but they have no problem finding money for expansion and renovation of their own premises.

author by Galway Businessman.publication date Thu Aug 13, 2009 13:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I don't think knocking down the old tower house was ever an issue, that seems to have appeared out of nowhere."

Anybody who dares to knock down Lynch's Tower will be "lynched" on the streets of Galway...by ordinary Galway people.

Probably on the very spot where Lynch "lynched" his own son 500 years ago.

And gave a new,horrible, word to the language.

By the bank's costly standards those renovations cost small change.

author by US Patriotpublication date Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Lynching' came from the US, a term originating in a judge called Lynch. In any case, Galway is not known, from what I understand, as a place that cares for much else but making money and they've lost alot of historic things over the year as well as opposing a recent try at providing a literary museum and a writers Centre. Is there a 'real' Galway?

author by Pete.publication date Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Lynching' came from the US, a term originating in a judge called Lynch. In any case, Galway is not known,"

To Be Sure To Be Sure.

English and Americans lay claim to everything that we Irish we give to them.

Columbus was just returning from discovering the New World when Lynch hanged his son in 1493.

"Lynch" was a verb in Ireland before you Americans were invented.

author by Hurler on the Ditchpublication date Sat Aug 22, 2009 19:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's up to us to keep an eye, as citizens, on what development worthy of the name takes place, and what amounts to vandalism. In Spain and France there are strict laws on conservation and buildings cannot be tampered with merely because someone has ideas about 'renovating' them. Galway has seen its fair share of buildings vanishing; for instance, the ancient thatched cottage at Prospect Hill, demolished in a weekend and nothing done about it. Then there's the ancient road surface discovered by Spanish Arch - instead of doing anything to preserve it, they built a museum beside it (which is not able to function as a museum, allegedly, because of atmospheric considerations) and allowed condoms, grass and empty beer tins smother it. So it is not being paranoid to want to keep an eye on what happens at Lynch's Castle. Or at Griffin's Bakery. Or at Taaffe's old shop. Or the Bank of Ireland building on Eyre Square.

author by Violet le Ducpublication date Tue Aug 25, 2009 13:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is extremely necessary to keep an eye, indeed, on what is being proposed here; not only in Galway, but in Dublin also, buildings have vanished - can anyone forget the destruction of an entire Georgian Street to make way for the atrocious building of an ESB HQ years ago now? Galway City council have serious questions to answer. Best ask them now before it is too late.

author by Derrick the Driverpublication date Wed Aug 26, 2009 13:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

THis is a copy of the appeal lodged with ABP.

The Secretary 7th August, 2009
An Bord Pleanala
64 Marlborough Street
Dublin 1

Re: Pl. Reg. No 08/663 – Allied Irish Bank p.l.c. – Permission for development of a Protected Structure (Ref no. 9314). The development will consist of the following: Demolition of existing (later) additions to castle (accommodating stair/lifts cores, kitchen/WC’s and banking facilities, etc) contiguous with North West wall of castle and abutting buildings in separate ownership which include adjoining protected structures Ref. No. 9309 (McCambridges, Shop Street) and Ref. No. 203 (No. 5 Upper Abbeygate Street). Existing buttresses abutting adjoining protected structure Ref. No. 203 to be removed and replaced with new structure. Alterations and repairs to the existing castle structure, following the removal of later structures. Construction of a new, three storey building comprising public banking hall, offices and associated ancillary spaces, including internal plant room and roof-mounted plant. New building, including glazed facade to Abbeygate Street Upper, shall be contiguous with North West wall of castle at Lynch’s Castle, 40 Shop Street, Galway (site includes frontage onto Abbeygate St Upper). Which is a Protected Structure and is also within an Architectural Conservation Area.

Dear Sir,
As we said in our initial submissions to Galway City Council, “Lynch’s Castle probably represents the most important upstanding historic building in Galway, and as such, any proposed development deserves the most careful consideration by the Planning Authority. An Taisce are generally supportive of the principle of a significant development taking place at this location. Anything that would replace the existing ugly grey wall with a building of some architectural quality would be welcomed we are sure”.
We went on say that, “the designs being offered up in this proposal are not sufficiently well thought out given the proximity of such an iconic medieval building (Lynch’s Castle). The balance between the preservation of the old, against the development of the new is a delicate one and while we would not wish to see a row of pastiche, replica, shopfronts, which might be thought to match the buildings on the opposite side of Abbeygate Street - we are concerned about the overuse of glass in the set backs”. Further on we said that, “while the use of an overhang is an attractive feature. We would have some concerns about late night security and the possibility of anti-social activities taking place in any open recess”.
Given that the planning authority has, effectively, ignored all of our concerns regarding the appropriateness of the proposed development, which includes a large amount of glass. And, that they appear to have dismissed most of what their own Heritage Officer had said. An Taisce is left with no option but to now seek to appeal this disappointing permission given by Galway City Council, under managers order No.57488 on 15th July, 2009.
We attach the required cheque, and acknowledgement receipt from our original submission as required.
Grounds of Appeal:
Among the most difficult decisions any planning authority is asked to make, are those where there is concern about the appropriateness of the development of new additions being attached to existing historic structures. It is virtually certain that there will be some disagreement over the style/design of new additions to be set against older historic fabric. This is one such case. The fondness local residents in Galway have towards their heritage buildings would demand that the strongest possible consideration be given to any attempts to change featured buildings so radically, as is here being proposed.
In our opinion, Glass facades of the style and extent being proposed are not appropriate in this particular location, which is at the very heart of Galway’s Architectural Conservation Area.
We take our lead here from the pages of the DoE,H&LG 2004 Architectural Heritage Guidelines for Planning Authorities where at 3.10.1 it states, “When it is proposed to erect a new building in an ACA, the design of the structure will be of paramount importance. Generally it is preferable to minimise the visual impact of the proposed structure on its setting. The greater the degree of uniformity in the setting. The greater the presumption in favour of a harmonious design”. This is all the more important when dealing with a property such as Lynch’s Castle, which is not alone considered to be of Local Importance, but is nationally and internationally recognised as being a building of great significance and antiquity.
The Guidelines go on to say, “However, replacement in replica should only be contemplated if necessary, for example, to restore the character of a unified terrace and should be appropriately detailed”.
It is our contention that it would be possible, and should be recognised as such, that in demolishing the modern extention’s, and the bland grey wall to the rear of Lynch’s Castle, that any replacement building should more appropriately follow the style and character of the adjacent neighbouring buildings in Upper Abbeygate Street towards which it will face. A vertical emphassis, of three storey’s with pitched roofs to match No.5 Upper Abbeygate Street would be more appropriate here surely!
As with any new building constructed within an Architectural Conservation Area, we would look for all new window openings and doors to be of timber construction, never uPVC. With rainwater goods of Cast Iron, never aluminium. Lime-based render to building facades is acceptable.
The Heritage Officer has looked for some break, or passageway, between the back wall of the Castle and any new structure. This might achieved by including a slight setback between both.
 An Taisce believes that insufficient weight has been given to the advices of the citys own Heritage Officer, a man with unrivalled knowledge where this citys historic buildings are concerned.
 Generally, the local place has not been taken into account. You could be anywhere; and the materials used could be from anywhere. Any or all new exposed stonework should be of Local Stone, or, matching that of the original building. That at least has been agreed.
 Given that the proposed development is to take place at the heart of this ancient city’s Zone of Archaeological Interest. We said that “it should be made a condition of any permission that an archaeologist be on site at all times and that any significant finds would lead to a review of further activity, which may require a halt to any work continuing. Indeed a full stop may be needed and a redesign required”. Mr. Jim Higgins, the City Heritage Officer goes further in criticising the proposal to build “irrespective” of archaeological finds. He is, on reflection, quite right to look for a complete archaeological licensed dig of the whole site and it would not satisfy him that ‘slit’ trench testing would suffice here.
 He is of course correct to state that, should archaeological work determine that significant finds are made, that it may well require the developer to redesign the entire layout and design of his building. Just as was previously done in Galway when significant finds were made during reconstruction works down at the Custom House. A visit by the Bord’s inspector to the site of the ‘Red Earl’s Hall’ in Druid Lane is recommended during his/her assessment of this particular development.

In conclusion.
Failte Ireland, as the National Tourism Development Authority, in a letter to An Taisce, stated that it, “is acutely aware that the built and cultural heritage of our towns and cities constitutes one of the most important tourism assets. In the Visitor Attitudes Survey 2006, 55% of overseas visitors stated that our ‘historic towns and cities’ were a primary motivating factor in choosing Ireland as a holiday destination. It follows, therefore, that the sustainable growth of the tourism sector depends on the maintenance of the quality, character and distinctiveness of this important aspect of our heritage”. ( John Concannon, Director, Regional Development – December, 2007), letter to An Taisce - Galway re: Streetscapes in Galway City.
In Failte Ireland West’s recent submission to the Review of the City Development Plan (Policies and Objectives Relating to Tourism). Tourism Policy 12: Calls for “Protection of the inherent character of local areas within the City’s towns and villages by the preparation and implementation of locally-informed design guidelines to guide those aspects of developments which may affect the character of the urban area – such as facade and shop front design, signage detailing, etc.
Despite An Taisce’s – Galway Association, submitting a set of ‘modified’ Draft Design Guidelines, in September, 2008. No debate or discussion has taken place on these either at SPC, or Full Council level in Galway City. Such guidelines have, therefore, yet to be adopted in Galway.
An Taisces Galway Association members take the view that the development, as permitted, would be incompatible with the present City Development Plan objectives for built heritage and conservation for this area of the City Centre, would compromise the future proper planning and sustainable development of the area, and should therefore, at our request, be rejected by An Bord Pleanala.


author by Violet le Ducpublication date Fri Aug 28, 2009 15:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Galway City councillors seems to have maintained a John O'Donoghue-style silence over this matter, hoping, no doubt, that no one will actually think it is their concern. But the heritage development of a city in which so much money has scandalously been thrown away on projects that do not fit the purpose - one thinks of the new museum, for instance - and none used at all on renovating buildings which could be put to cultural use - the old and now-wrecked Spanish Arch museum - is precarious, to say the least, and seems not to be in the hands of people who have any concern at City Hall, for the forwards development of heritage or the arts. Are the relevant SPCs properly chaired, properly managed, for instance? And who cares enough to stand up and ask? One could be forgiven for believing it is politically easier for some councillors to protest about the invasion of Iraq than to take one of their own number to task on the floor of the Council chamber. Heritage will fall victim to parochial mé-fhéinism, in the end.

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Mon Sep 28, 2009 19:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Now graffitti has been painted on the side of the building, a true reminder of how heritage-conscious Galway is. No doubt the Arts Office of the City will fling some money at it, call it public art and appoint a couple of 'graffitti artists in residence.' (There is, believe it or not, a Public Art Officer at City Hall, but what precisely the role of this officer is, few can establish. Occasionally they seem to double as literature officer and so on. And is there a backlog of public art commissions in Galway?) Given that so many of Galway City's historic monuments, postboxes, and plaques vanish into a mysterious X-File, perhaps a 'Vandal In Residence' might be tendered for. Contract for one year; or, more correctly, whatever you're having yourself, and there's precedent for this. Meanwhile, the ancient wall of Lynch's Castle upon which the graffitti has been sprayed is to be dismantled and rebuilt brick by brick inside the Galway City Museum. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism has pledged funding for this and it will be unveiled by. . . . . . .

author by On the Dole.publication date Mon Sep 28, 2009 20:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"There is, believe it or not, a Public Art Officer at City Hall, but what precisely the role of this officer is, few can establish. Occasionally they seem to double as literature officer and so on. And is there a backlog of public art commissions in Galway?"

We know.

We private sector workers know already how the public sector builds nests for itself.
Then justify the useless nests as being essential.
"Ireland might collapse y'know."

99.9% of people signing-on the dole come from the private sector.


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