AS WE move into Galway's version of the ‘Silly Season’, where the commentariat find it difficult to talk about anything other than the Races or the arts festival, it was an opportunity that simply could not be missed for a couple of our more industrious city councillors.
The councillors took the opportunity to vent opinions about a little local issue on an anxiously waiting public. FG councillor Pearce Flannery declared “Salthill must be designated the half-way point for the ‘Wild Atlantic Way.” Indeed he "demanded" Fáilte Ireland "use some initiative" as this is an "immense opportunity to revitalise Salthill".
Well, Insider also thinks that "undoubtedly" Salthill has a problem. So many councillors regularly make the point that "Salthill is losing out". Labour's Harry Potter lookalike Cllr Niall McNelis also weighed into the spirit of the bunfight, by calling on the still unfortunate Fáilte Ireland to put more effort into promoting the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ as it passes through Galway. Particularly through Salthill (for that is where his votes are as you know ).
Insider is reminded of the historic efforts of a previous Salthill Development Association, back in the days when Twiggs (Eglinton Hotel ) and The Castle were still flourishing about 25 years back. Entrepreneur Gerry Higgins, who as the then SDAs chair, commissioned a report from Frank L Benson & Associates Planning Consultants. They were tasked with bringing forward suggestions on how to revive the by now flagging resort's fortunes.
Trouble was, most Salthill business owners did not take much notice of the late Frank Benson's final recommendations. Instead they went ahead by making their own fortunes building masses of apartments in the Celtic Tiger days, instead of making any provision for more facilities to keep tourists spending.
Salthill is even more of a residential satellite suburb for the city than it ever was. Facilities outside of the slot machine palaces, restaurants, and pubs, to keep tourists in the resort as they spent their holiday money, just did not get built, apart from the aquarium and the adjacent children's playground. Apart from these, and Leisureland, there is just not that much to keep people in Salthill any more.
At least there is the Prom
Of course what does work, and incidentally, is also Salthill's biggest asset - outside of its spectacular views across Galway Bay to the Burren - is the Prom itself.
The prom is a fantastic amenity that is both treasured and well used year round by visitors and residents. However, Frank Benson's report suggested other improvements which might have been made, but instead were not. Some of the upgrades he suggested are in place and actually work - such as the ‘stop off points’ as Insider calls them, built out onto the rock armouring, and of course, the children’s play park.
However people still complain about the various things that have not happened, such as improving the provision for car-parking away from the prom itself; developing a separation lane system on the deck of the Prom to keep "fast-moving bikes and skate boarders" away from killing each other, or maiming some unfortunate pedestrian pensioner too slow to get out of their way; and the lack of doggy toilet facilities, such as you will see on similar promenades in resorts in Spain or Greece.
On the subject of toilets, Salthill is particularly deficient in that particular area. There is not one between the automatic ones recently refurbished opposite The Salthill Hotel and at Eyre Square. How ridiculous is that?
Galway's promenade is now the central link for the city, the Claddagh and South Park, and Gentian Hill, as the coastal ‘greenway’ makes its way from Roshill, Roscam, towards Lough Rusheen and when finished, terminates at Silverstrand.
Currently there is a consultation process under way seeking public opinions on the possibility of certain developments at South Park, as well as construction of a proposed new park in Kingston on the Western Distributor Road. Insider attended both, and was genuinely surprised to see nothing - no drawings, no maps, nor even indicative sketches on a piece of paper to show what had already been decided. All there was, was just the council's own parks director, Stephen Walsh, and a representative of the consultants, Cunnane-Stratton, who will be now drawing up plans.
These were unique occasions where the officials were there just to listen and hear what the residents did, or did not, want, quite different from the past where people were simply told what was being done, and were then left with the task of opposing things that they certainly did not want. How different is that!
Now here's a question, does anyone remember the yellow brick-road? That was the dyed asphalt coating applied to the Prom some years ago. Insider is unaware of any public consultation before that was done, and look at the resulting furore. So perhaps the council has learned something.
Money well spent?
Public funding to complete all improvements needed in Salthill is in short supply and, will not be helped by Brexit. The Government will be keeping its own purse strings pulled even tighter these days, because of what Farage and BoJo have done.
Galway city has in the past developed a reputation for committing money to wasteful projects, such as the awful Eyre Square regeneration, and the pedestrianising of Shop Street, which surface already needs to be laid again. Not that these projects weren’t needed, but just they were wasteful in the execution.
Even more millions have been sunk into a hole in the ground at Lower Merchants Road (to be an art house cinema or some such thing ). Huge amounts of council's budget has recently gone into a risky Galway 2020 competition which might prove fruitful or may yet backfire.
But now it is getting late and Insider is becoming morose and beginning to sound entirely negative, but then, without a ‘contrarian’ or two around to bring us back down to earth, we might just get ahead of ourselves and we would not want that now, would we?