Galway City Council has approved plans for the expansion of the Forster Court Hotel in the city centre by amalgamating the neighbouring property.
The Connacht Hospitality Group submitted plans for the amalgamation of the hotel with the former Aras Failte Tourist Information Office next door, which has been vacant since 2018.
The development approved by the council would result in the creation of 11 new bedrooms for the Forster Court Hotel, and the addition of new conference facilities at the basement level.
Planning permission for the development was granted by the city council with thirteen standard conditions attached.
Condition No. 4 stipulated that the basement level shall “only be used as a conference centre and shall not be used for any other purpose, including a night club, a dance hall or a concert hall”.
The council planning department noted that, while the plot ratio of the proposed conference facility would exceed what is allowed under the city development plan, it is justified by bringing a long vacant building back into use.
“Whilst the proposed development would not make any changes to the urban character of the area, it would result in the occupancy of a long vacant property and would provide for the sustainable use of land.”
“It would also contribute to the local economy in terms of employment and would complement the local business sector,” the planning inspector said, recommending the council approve the plans.
The amalgamation of the two properties will result in the creation of 11 new guest bedrooms at the first floor level of the Forster Court Hotel, as well a the expansion of the Hyde Bar and restaurant on the ground floor.
The ground floor of the former tourist information office will serve as the entrance to the conference facilities, with a reception area and ancillary refreshment bar.
A new stairs and lift would also be installed to a new conference centre at the basement level, which will include function rooms, meeting rooms, a kitchen, and toilets.
“The proposed development and amalgamation of the two buildings will bring back into use an existing vacant city centre building, on a key city centre site, which would otherwise be at risk of long term vacancy and potentially fall into disrepair as a result of disuse,” the planning application stated.
“Furthermore the proposed redevelopment of the hotel to include conference facilities will support the economic viability of the hotel and diversify its market, given competition from AirBnB etc”.
The application from the Connacht Hospitality Group said that the hotel industry has been “particularly hard hit” by COVID-19, and that the addition of new facilities will help to future-proof the business, while also bringing more business to the area.