City Can Be Region’s “Beacon on the Hill”

Eoghan Dalton Reports

While it was often heated, there were early signs of cooperation between Kilkenny and Waterford at last Thursday’s meeting with Minister of State John Paul Phelan. The joint structure being put in place to take on local authority functions for the northside of the city means politicians from either side of the boundary will soon be working together with greater power than previously. The Waterford Metropolitan Mayor, Cllr Joe Kelly (Ind) copped to this when he questioned the South Kilkenny TD on whether Waterford might be able to avail of a portion of the 2,000 units of accommodation set to be built in Ferrybank, as part of the North Quays project.
These will be located at the Kilkenny side of the boundary, thanks to lands being opened up by the new link road between Belmont and Abbey Road.

Waterford Metropolitan Mayor Joe Kelly

Waterford Metropolitan Mayor Joe Kelly

Cllr Kelly asked if any Council accommodation in the development could be used to clear Waterford’s “huge” housing waiting list, currently placed at well-over 1,000 applicants: “We’re struggling at our side of the river to allocate properties to our people. I’m wondering if we could avail or do you know if we will be able to avail of that provision?”Responding, Minister Phelan said Council housing would be “an obvious area” where there’s an overlap that could suit both Waterford and Kilkenny local authorities.
The purpose of the joint structure, he said, would be to ensure the body is “empowered to perform any functions that the neighbouring authorities agree to give it”.

He further singled out areas aside from housing where the joint structure would play a role, such as forward planning an commercial development. “Now, getting agreement on it (housing) might be somewhat difficult but I don’t see why, if we go about it the right way, that wouldn’t be the logical progression of what the joint structure should be looking at,” he said. The Fine Gael TD still got into more scrapes with Waterford members, with Cllr Mary Roche (Ind) pointing to the deserted Ferrybank shopping centre as an example of Kilkenny’s “predatory designs” on Waterford city. To that and other criticism, the Minster said he found it ironic that a shopping centre is being supported for Ferrybank on the North Quays, when there is “only yards between the existing centre and what’s proposed to be built”.

The two agreed to “leave the past in the past” on this topic and to attempt working towards a regional viewpoint. In a lengthy sitting, Minister Phelan told Councillors several times that Waterford city needs to be recognised as the capital of the South East, with the headquarters for the Technological University of the South East needing to be located there as well.Following repeated questions by Councillors, he said he was in danger of “getting slated” by Kilkenny people for his promotion of Waterford but was still searching for the right thing to say to ease fears of Déise Councillors. “Waterford is the capital of the South East, I don’t know much more I can say on it…And Waterford should be the beacon on the hill for the rest of the region.”

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