Parking Without Planning

Eoghan Dalton Reports
A car park that was opened in the city centre without planning permission is being operated “with impunity” according to Waterford City & County Council.
The Apple Market Car Park, run by Dublin-based I Páirc, was refused by the local authority and an appeal has been lodged to An Bord Pleanála.
However, it has been operating a 32-space car park for several months, with the hope that the planning board overturns the Council’s decision.
Until then it can continue to take in customers – despite opposition from residents and the Council. The site is privately owned and was previously used as a staff car park for a branch of Bank of Ireland and I Páirc has two other car parks in Waterford City

Waterford City & County Council's Fergus Galvin.

Waterford City & County Council's Fergus Galvin.


If the Council’s decision is upheld I Páirc must cease its operations, and Director of Planning Michael Quinn said the authority would be interested in proposals for the site that “are in line with the area”. One suggestion from members of the business community is to see a food market introduced, similar to Wexford’s Bullring Market.
Una Ryan, a member of the area’s Residents Association, called the situation “farcical” and said the traffic using the car park posed a danger to residents. The Council’s refusal to I Páirc aligns with its long-term plans to remove parking spaces within the city centre. It is unclear what would occur if customers were successful in avoiding paying the charge, due to the car park’s uncertain status, however its payment system should see off any attempt at avoiding a charge – it can only be accessed via a barrier and uses a cashless payment method. “They have a captive audience,” remarked one Council executive. Residents living in the area say the stand-off is just one example of how oversight of the Apple Market has been conceded to private businesses, while Council officials admit there has been friction between the two groups.

A further demonstration can be found in a note delivered to some households last week, informing them that the area would be closed to traffic on the Friday and Saturday of Bank Holiday weekend gone. It added that Spring Garden Alley residents could gain access through Colbeck Street.
However confusion arose because it was signed by a local businessman, leading some to wonder whether it was a move undertaken by the Council or the business community. A Council official stated the closure was included in the traffic plan for the Spraoi Festival, however there was no reference to this in the Council’s roads plan for last weekend.
According to a residents representative, the Council has informed them that there is no need to include John’s Street and Apple Market closures in the official Temporary Road Closures notice because there is already road closures in place on an ongoing basis, until an automated barrier system is functioning.
“The main bone of contention for the residents is communication,” Cllr Jason Murphy (FF) told this newspaper. He said the public space in the Apple Market has been “effectively franchised, so the Council will need to take control and tighten the reins.”

Cllr Murphy added that the “huge amount of public money” spent on revamping the Apple Market – up to €6 million, including the €1.2 million canopy erected a year ago – means the local authority will need to clarify the role of the private business community. “There’s confusion on the ground – what is the status of the Apple Market? There seems to be a lot of grey areas,” he said.
Metropolitan Mayor Joe Kelly (Ind) and Cllr Murphy have met and spoken with the Council executive on behalf of residents. The latter told the July Metropolitan meeting there had been no communication between businesses with the Council and residents for an open air gig held in the Apple Market in weeks prior.
Instead, residents discovered the gig was planned after reading an advert in a newspaper. Director of Services Fergus Galvin confirmed the local authority must be contacted in future for such events.
Speaking to this newspaper, Jim “Flash” Gordon, owner of Revolution nightclub in the Apple Market, said the business community is working together but he emphasised it’s still early days for the area. “This is a work in progress, it’s the first time there’s an entertainment district like this in the city. But anything we do seems to be very positive, we’re nearly a year in and we’re looking forward to diversifying what we’re doing.”

Night-time businesses intend on having a sound policy devised shortly that will conform with regulations. The issue has been of concern to residents for some time, especially since the canopy for the Apple Market was unveiled. Waterford Council has said previously that sound checks were not done and that it would monitor the situation.
At last month’s meeting, Cllr Mary Roche (Ind) also raised the proposition of relocating the seating found along the sides of the market towards the centre as a way of creating a communal area.
She described the difficulty people with buggies and mobility issues have walking through the area due to the outdoor seating, particularly where the footpath narrows. This was welcomed by Director of Services Fergus Galvin, who said it would be the “ideal solution” once agreement could be reached with businesses.

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