Galway to devise a ‘public realm’ strategy for city centre

City’s hiring of urban planners mirrors similar Dublin strategy in 2008

A concert at Eyre Square: the ‘public realm’ plan would extend west from the square.

A concert at Eyre Square: the ‘public realm’ plan would extend west from the square.

 

Galway City Council intends to appoint an urban planning and design team to draw up a “public realm” strategy for its central quarter.

The local authority has advertised for an “urban planning or urban design/architecture-led multidisciplinary team” for the contract, with no time scale specified.

A council spokesman said it related to a “specific piece of work” around the “public realm”, in tandem with the Galway City Development Plan 2017-23.

The public realm is defined as areas accessible to the public, as in roads, streets, lanes, parks, squares, bridges, river and canal banks, seafronts and other open spaces. It includes publicly available space between buildings.

Dublin City Council initiated a public realm strategy for the capital in 2008, with 15 actions and a number of pilot projects. According to the council, the public realm contributes to the capital’s “competitiveness” – both by “influencing the image of the city abroad and by being attractive for people who live in, work in or visit” it.

Galway City Council’s chief executive, Brendan McGrath, had proposed a public realm strategy as part of the new city plan in late 2016, envisaging it would extend from Eyre Square in the centre and west by the Claddagh and to Salthill. It would embrace the “cultural quarter” defined by the Galway City Museum and the Pálás arthouse cinema, recently completed and opened.

The ambition was to match it to city transportation needs, with a “shared space” between pedestrians and public transport on Eglinton Street.

The local authority executive acknowledged that it would be influenced by key decisions, still awaited, on Galway port development and on the proposed “bypass”, a controversial road plan to alleviate traffic that cuts close to the city and involves a new bridge over the river Corrib.

An Taisce has long called for a city architect for Galway – which this is not. However, An Taisce advocacy officer Ian Lumley welcomed the public realm initiative as positive. “We would hope that it would reduce the impact of traffic on Galway city, and that it would focus on providing more public transport and better provision for cyclists,” he said.

Mr Lumley noted that in addition to the many green spaces, canals and the Corrib riverbank, Galway also has an extensive seafront. Its watercourses, some neglected, have earned it the nickname “Venice of the north”.

Galway is identified as one of five cities for further growth in the 2040 National Planning Framework. The specification for the contract says that a strategy must be “ user friendly and highly visual”, and should complement measures in the Galway Transport Strategy 2016-2035”.

It notes that the public realm strategy’s projects will attract funding from the National Development Plan 2018-2027.

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