“Reconfiguring Flour Mill is economically impossible”

The clearance of the North Quays now looks set to include the Hennebique-designed Flour Mill building, the only structure now left standing on the site. PHOTO: Noel Browne

The clearance of the North Quays now looks set to include the Hennebique-designed Flour Mill building, the only structure now left standing on the site. PHOTO: Noel Browne


Finding a suitable function for the Hennebique-designed Flour Mill on Waterford’s North Quay, which is now set for demolition as part of the €300 million Al Hokair development, has proven ‘economically impossible’. That’s the contention of City & County Council Chief Executive Michael Walsh.
Speaking to The Munster Express, Mr Walsh said that this was partly responsible for the Council’s decision to commence a Part VIII (8) process which, in all likelihood, shall lead to the removal of the building.
“Our view has always been that the Hennebique (building) was unlikely to have a potential use. It’s very limited in terms of use – it’s only suitable for storage in reality – and given its close proximity to where the (proposed) pedestrian bridge and other amenities will land, the reality is that it doesn’t have a suitable use at that particular location.”
Mr Walsh added: “It’s a very small (on a storey by storey basis) concrete frame building with an absolute maximum of about seven feet of head height (per floor) once you put services into it – and there are columns every three metres as well. So in general terms it would have been perfectly suitable for something like an archive, or for storage space or bulk storage – that’s what it was built for – but in the nature of mixed used development that we are now envisaging for the site, which is really modern, service and knowledge-based economic activity, it is impossible to reconfigure it in any way economically that could make it usable in this new context.”
Addressing the issue via the Waterford History Group’s Facebook page, inner city resident Ollie Breslin, well-known through his work with Waterford Youth Arts, raised concerns about the all but guaranteed removal of the mill building.
“How can a building be historically important one week and the next it can be knocked down no problem,” he queried.
“Why aren’t people speaking up about this? Surely creative architects can include such a historic building within their new design? A few months ago (the Council) spent a lot of money trying to protect it and (making) sure it wasn’t damaged in the demolition works and now because big bucks (are) coming into town it can be knocked down.”
As Michelle Clancy reported in our October 13th 2015 edition: “A preservation order has been placed on the nine-storey former R&H Hall mill at the centre of the site and measures are being take to protect it during the demolition process, according to the Council. Constructed in 1905 using methods developed in the late 19th Century by Frenchman Francois Hennebique, this building is one of the oldest surviving steel-reinforced concrete structures in Ireland. It originally stood alone on the wharf, until the adjacent sites became occupied by additional warehouses during the 20th Century.” However, it should be noted that a preservation order is not the equivalent of a building being listed.
A ‘profile’ of the mill on the Buildings of Ireland website reads: “A prolonged period of neglect notwithstanding, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the pillared interior, thus upholding the character or integrity of a grain store of warehouse making an imposing, if increasingly forlorn visual statement overlooking the River Suir.”
Rightly or wrongly, depending on one’s point of view, it would appear that this “forlorn visual statement’s” days are numbered.

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