Social housing estate in Galway village blocked by councillors

Plans for third such development in Moycullen come up against local opposition

An Garraí Gabhainn, Moycullen, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O Shaughnessy

An Garraí Gabhainn, Moycullen, Co Galway. Photograph: Joe O Shaughnessy

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Plans for a series of social housing estates in Moycullen, Co Galway, which have raised local tempers, hit a hurdle when councillors rejected the third development planned by Galway County Council.

An estate of 49 council house in the heart of the Connemara village has been built and is occupied, while 48 more council houses are to be built in another estate in the 1,500-strong village on the Galway city side.

However, local councillors last week rejected a plan to build a third estate of 31 houses near a local playground. The decision raises questions over the local authority’s plans to build 600 social homes in the village by 2030.

The Part 8 planning application was rejected on Friday by Connemara Municipal District councillors, with Fianna Fáil councillors Noel Thomas, Dáithí O Cualáin, Gerry King and Seamus Walsh, and Independent councillor Tomás Ó Curraoin, all voting against the plans.

The local authority is under pressure to build houses outside Galway city’s boundaries because of a lack of available land in the city, a rising population and some 3,500 people on the council’s housing waiting list.

However, the developments in Moycullen, an increasingly popular area for commuters working in Galway just 20 minutes away, have been strongly opposed by many in the village, with a strong local campaign against the plans.

Speaking before Friday’s vote, Mr Thomas said no one in the village “has an issue” with social housing being built in the village, but people did object to estates having nothing other than social housing.

“My view is every single estate that is built should have an element of social housing in it. They’re integrating everybody together and you’re creating a hell of a lot more houses,” he said.

Lack of services

The recently finished 49-house estate by Galway County Council “never would have gotten planning permission” if it had been put forward to the council’s planning department by a private builder, Mr Thomas said.

“We have an awful influx of housing going on, but we don’t have any good services. We have a school that’s overflowing at the gills. We don’t have amenities for teenagers to hang out at. All we have in the middle of the village is a playground,” he said.

The lands to be occupied by one of the council estates should be put aside for Moycullen to have “a piece of community ground right in the middle of the village”, with basketball courts and somewhere for people to sit with a coffee, he said.

However, Aaron Mayhew, who lives in the first social housing estate, said his family’s life had been changed after spending years “hopping from house to house”, having lived in seven houses over six years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided some short-term relief, he said, because houses that would usually have been kept for holiday lets became vacant.

The housing crisis is leaving Galway with choices to make, says Social Democrats councillor Owen Hanley, with four-storey buildings becoming more common inside the city’s boundaries, but “not mega-storey” buildings.

“There’s a real desperation and heartbreak out there just across the board. We’re talking about people from every section of society who really feel like there is no hope for them.

“There are real concerns that people are running out of options and they’re running out of time. We have a situation where, [as] people enter into pension age, will they be trapped renting in unaffordable accommodation and really sub-standard conditions for ever?” he said.

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