Funding Gap Needs Bridging

Mixed views expressed in the wake of URDF announcement
Eoghan Dalton Reports

The first announcement of Government funding for the redevelopment of the city’s north side, totalling €6 million for construction of the pedestrian bridge linking the North and South Quays, was greeted primarily with concern and confusion yesterday. In its application to the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund last September, Waterford City and County Council (WCCC) applied for €20.1 million for the first tranche of funding, with the local authority looking for a total of €104.5 million over the next four years.

The first tranche contains about €100 million to spread to projects across the country. However, questions soon arose as it emerged that Waterford is instead getting less than a third of what it sought.
“With only €100 million to allocate, should the Government have prioritised key projects instead of taking the attitude of let’s give a little bit to everyone?,” asked Waterford Chamber Chief Executive Gerald Hurley.
The announcement came on the back of CSO figures revealing the South East was being left far behind by many other regions when it comes to job creation, with just 600 created between September 2017 and September of this year.

The Irish Independent reported that, in the 12-month period, Dublin saw almost 33,000 jobs created, the South West, comprising Cork and Kerry, saw over 15,000 jobs, while the Midlands and the West saw a further 7,900 and 5,100 jobs respectively. Acknowledging that Waterford received the largest amount in the announcement out of all the projects submitted by other cities and counties, Gerald Hurley said the project now needs “a commitment from Government that the full funding will be made available, as well as the timelines, which will be required to trigger the tendering process”

The announcement was described as a “slap in the face” by local TD Mary Butler (FF), adding “If the delivery of initial funding falls at the first fence ,it really does not bode well for the future funding”.
Local Government politicians felt differently. Minister of State John Halligan (Ind) said it’s the first building block a project that has the potential to “transform our city, not just physically but also from an economic and social perspective. Furthermore, the new bridge will enhance Waterford’s tourism offering as it will link the New Ross to Waterford and the Waterford to Dungarvan greenways”.

Senator Paudie Coffey (FG) said there would be a further tranche of funding in February, with the hope being that would secure the remaining €14.1 million Waterford Council originally sought for 2019.
“This is first stepping-stone in terms of the overall funding for the North Quays, and this will be backed up by further funding as the development progresses over the coming months and years,” said Senator Coffey.
Earlier this month Waterford City and County Council confirmed an agreement has been signed with the European arm of Saudi retail giant Fawaz Alhokair Group to redevelop the North Quays site.

An Bord Pleanála has approved compulsory purchase orders for lands required for the redevelopment project. The redevelopment of the brownfield site will include a shopping centre, office space, a hotel, and other commercial facilities, totalling over 90,000 square metres.
Rob Cass, from Falcon Real Estate, the company fronting the development, told this newspaper he wouldn’t be commenting on the announcement.

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