A rich medieval period has left a strong legacy that gives definition to the city centre. However this tight network of streets has also served to constrain the direction of growth in recent years and limited the ability of the city centre to respond to demand for an increase in commercial floor area space. In the past Galway also had a rich mercantile trading function where the harbour and seafront were part of the town centre activities, in contrast to today where the gravity of attraction is the main shopping streets. This has lamentably resulted in a separation of the town centre from the sea with all the consequential loss of opportunities. The sites at both Ceannt Station and the Inner Harbour have experienced economic and functional changes which have left behind inactive brownfield sites. These sites present scope for a significant extension of the city centre and a re-engagement with the seafront.
With respect to Ceannt Station, a site of approximately 5.8 hectares, there has been examination of a number of development strategies which include development proposals to modernise and expand the public transportation function of the station and in the longer term release the surplus lands on the site to accommodate more compatible city centre uses, replacing the redundant industrial uses. In principle, this represents a solution to the need for a sequential expansion of the city centre onto a site with the advantage of an improved bus and train interchange. In this regard the Council will consider the regeneration of these lands where they are led by a vision that can demonstrate a clear strategy for the physical, economic and social transformation of the area.
In advance of specific proposals for development, a masterplan will be prepared for the overall site which will address the critical issues that will contribute to making this area a successful place. In general the masterplan will set out proposals for buildings, spaces, movement, and land use. It will include for a delivery of transport requirements, determine the relationship between buildings and public spaces, and show how connectivity will be achieved. It will define building heights and massing, determine the distribution of use and activities, identify movement patterns, provide a good public realm, demonstrate the link with the existing built heritage and culture and show how the unique waterfront setting can be celebrated. This context will need to be linked to a delivery strategy which will give the likely phasing of development. Economic and investment strategies will be required to be part of the masterplan which will also include for the role of all agency involvement in the delivery of services and infrastructure to be clarified.
The preparation of this masterplan will be primarily the responsibility of the prime stakeholder but a significant level of engagement with the Planning Authority, the public, adjoining landowners and other stakeholders will be required to be demonstrated as part of the process The masterplan will build on the acknowledged co-operation existing between Ceannt Station landowners and harbour landowners which includes for a common objective to have a co-ordinated and integrated approach embedded into future proposals.
In particular with regard to the masterplan, there will be a requirement for any redevelopment to accommodate and front-load a significantly upgraded transportation interchange with associated underground car parking. A full analysis of future likely and desirable needs for transport facilities including for commuter rail services will be necessary in the context of Galway as a Gateway and a regional centre. This should demonstrate how the dedication of land on the site for commercial development will not inhibit future demand for intensification of rail/bus or any other likely forms of public transport.
Regarding the particulars of urban design, it should be demonstrated that proposed developments can knit seamlessly into the fabric of the medieval core. There will be requirements to connect and integrate with the existing street network, reflect the existing urban grain, structure and link the new public spaces with existing public spaces. The design will be required to maximise public access and permeability throughout the site, give linkage and views to the seafront and Lough Atalia. It should also look at the challenge of transition areas bounding the site and anticipate opportunities for linkage and continuity in the design and layout of these sites. This will be particularly important with regard to the adjoining Inner Harbour area where regeneration is also planned and where maximum advantage of the seafront location can be delivered.
Where taller buildings are part of the composition, it shall be demonstrated how existing important views, vistas and landmarks are respected and how such buildings contribute to aspects of urban design such as accessibility, enclosure, character, permeability and adaptability. The public realm should be designed in a manner that achieves a strong sense of place, achieves permeability and reflects a defined functionality and strong landscape impact. This element too should demonstrate how linkage with existing spaces can be achieved and where continuity with likely scenarios on the adjoining site can be made.
The use mix shall provide for a minimum residential content on the site equivalent to 30% of the proposed gross floor area, in order to achieve a significant level of residential presence and a critical mass to create a new community. In certain limited cases, where a residential content would not represent the optimum use for a specific site within the overall plan area or where a specific development proposal might not in terms of urban design have a more beneficial use mix , the equivalent 30% requirement may be provided for at a more appropriate location within the overall site or as part of a different development. Any alternative measures to achieve the minimum residential content will be required to be part of the framework strategy for the overall development of the area. The commercial use mix shall include for both retail and office use.
The rich historical and architectural heritage of the site should be a major consideration in any proposal and opportunities for the re-use and the re-establishment of relationships between these structures explored in any design and layout. Cognisance should also be taken of the proximity of the Seveso III site in the Harbour Enterprise Park.
In view of the scale of the site and the location, it will be a requirement of any redevelopment to provide for an arts/cultural facility at the developer’s expense and with a management regime incorporated into the development delivery that enables the long term sustainable use of such a facility. The significant location and size of the site and the requirement to deliver an integrated transport hub may justify consideration of a higher density standard on these lands than the prevailing plot ratio of 2:1. In the CC zone increased plot ratio will only be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that the proposed development would make a significant architectural contribution to the character of the city.
Any scheme for redevelopment should have a phasing programme that demonstrates delivery of public benefits corresponding with each stage of construction such as a public square/cultural facility. The phasing programme should also be so designed that it is sensitive to market changes and that development for each phase can be, as far as is feasible, completed to a level that is self-contained and will not result in a negative visual impact on any publicly exposed area for a prolonged period. As part of the phasing programme consideration will be given to the identification of an initial phase comprising of lands north of the railway line and fronting onto Fairgreen Road. These lands have the advantage of street frontage, direct accessibility, capacity to complete and further animate this streetscape. These lands are segregated from the lands associated with the function of Ceannt Station but regardless will be required to show how re-development will not inhibit future demand for intensification of rail/bus or any other likely forms of public transport and also how the development will contribute to the upgrading of existing transportation services. There will also be a requirement as part of any masterplan proposals to accord with measures proposed in the GTS.