Students criticise ‘nimby’ opposition to Galway housing development

Student union president of Galway-Mayo IT says locals opposition is ‘discriminatory’

Mark O’Brien of GMIT students’ union said the extra 400 beds “will alleviate the pressure from the 20,000 students in GMIT and NUI Galway scrambling for somewhere to sleep”. Photograph: Getty Images

Mark O’Brien of GMIT students’ union said the extra 400 beds “will alleviate the pressure from the 20,000 students in GMIT and NUI Galway scrambling for somewhere to sleep”. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Students in NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) have criticised residents in the Newcastle area of Galway city for campaigning to block a planned 400-bed student housing development.

Mark O’Brien, head of the student union in GMIT, said local opposition to the student housing development was “discriminatory” and a “a classic example of not in my backyard” (‘nimby’) politics.

In February, Galway businessman Terry Sweeney sold the Westwood Hotel in Newcastle to a UK-based student accommodation developer Ziggurat. The hotel is located near the NUI Galway campus, and the UK developer plans to demolish the property and construct a student housing complex.

Basil Fenton (71) has lived beside the hotel since 1978, and is part of a local residents’ committee opposed to the planned development. The group is raising money to hire a consultant to place an objection to any future planning permission application.

“There has been experience with anti-social behaviour from students before, although it has improved in recent years” Mr Fenton said.

About 200 local residents attended a recent meeting opposing the planned development, including several local politicians.

Fianna Fáil councillor Ollie Crowe said the Newcastle and Dangan area was already “very densely populated with student housing”.

Mr Crowe said there should be more regard and consultation with locals ahead of large developments, and he would oppose the redevelopment of the Westwood Hotel.

Regeneration

Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh, head of NUI Galway student union, said neighbouring residents should reconsider their opposition, and said the investment had “great potential for regeneration” of the area.

Mr O’Brien of GMIT students’ union said the extra 400 beds “will alleviate the pressure from the 20,000 students in GMIT and NUI Galway scrambling for somewhere to sleep” ahead of each college term.

In a statement the national Union of Students in Ireland said it was concerned that a small number of residents could block much-needed student housing due to negative stereotypes about college students.

The Westwood Hotel will continue to operate until 2018, and after that the new owner will seek to lodge planning permission to redevelop the site as student accommodation.