So ‘Serial Objectors’ are to blame … claims the White Elephant Party

Dear sir,

So, Councillor Gary Wyse is determined ‘to get bulldozers back on the building sites, even if he has to push them back on himself’!! Laudable sentiments indeed, from the City Council stalwart, a member of the same party that allowed free reign to the construction industry and their financiers, resulting in the destruction of our economy. His determination to rescue us unfortunately arrived a little late to save Waterford Crystal and several other local businesses from his own party’s indifference. His latest wheeze, his apparent desire to get a large scale retail development into the centre of Waterford, flies in the face of the austerity being forced on the country by the continuation of the vicious policies, again, inflicted on us by Mr Wyse’s own party. Yep, Fianna Fail.

Anyway, there are a couple of issues arising from Mr Wyse’s comments made to last week’s ‘Munster Express’ and displayed on the front page. Firstly, what is Councillor Wyse’s rational for building a retail outlet in Waterford City Centre and whose interests is he really looking out for? Secondly, is there any basis for his criticism of so called ‘serial objectors’ other than gossip and misinformation by a biased media?

First off, a question. Just how will building a sizeable retail outlet in Waterford City Centre revive the fortunes of an ailing city? Where does Mr Wyse think the consumers are going to come from? Let’s face it, we have had austerity measures enforced on the population already with at least four more hard hitting budgets to come. Any business can only thrive if it has customers. It’s not rocket science really. Within the past 20 years or so, Waterford has already built and lost two good sized shopping centres from the City Centre (Broad Street Centre and Trinity House). What makes him think that another White Elephant will work any better during Ireland’s worst ever recession? Would it not be more in Mr Wyse’s line to try and do something about business rental rates in the city centre? Could he explain why there are so many empty shop units already in the town centre? Is it the exorbitant rents or whisper it quietly, is it because there isn’t the business to sustain them? No, apparently Mr Wyse has arrived at a convenient answer to all of these questions. Flying in the face of economic reality, he has decreed that it’s those dastardly ‘serial objectors’ what are the problem!!

Scapegoating

Don’t get me wrong, as much as the next man, I like the idea of Waterford developing into a 21st century city with top class retail outlets and a vibrant and cultured city centre. We are right to question why our plans for urban regeneration have become bogged down. However, with the likes of Mr Wyse pointing the finger at and conveniently scapegoating so-called ‘serial objectors’, are we in danger once again of falling into the trap of allowing the venture capitalists/developers to be absolved of any culpability?

This brings me nicely to my second point. Blaming these ‘serial objectors’ does not stand up to any scrutiny. Really! As Councillor Wyse well knows, planning is a complex process. There are many steps in the planning process which have to be successfully negotiated before a building can be erected. There are all sorts of national statutes, environmental regulations and commitments that must be complied with (including Waterford City Council’s) along with a lengthy process of consultation with residents and businesses in the area surrounding a planned new build. If the plans fall short on any of these obligations, there will be a delay in building. They have to respond to objections and if they are serious in their intent to build, negotiate an acceptable way forward. At this point in time there are obviously serious flaws within the planning applications submitted. The developers are clearly not giving due consideration to the required legalities. This is their own responsibility and not that of the objectors. Furthermore, as not many (if any) of the objections have been overturned, surely this suggests that the ‘serial objections’ are underpinned by coherent and sound legal arguments?

Yet Councillor Wyse’s position on this matter is hardly surprising. In keeping with his party’s cynical modus operandi, he indulges in a selfish exercise of populist scapegoating to divert the public from the damage inflicted on the country, and let’s not forget our own City, by Fianna Fail. ‘Waterford’s problems are down to well known serial objectors and not the result of the ruinous policies pursued by an arrogant, corrupt and crony riddled political party. Of which I just happen to be a member of’! It’s enough to make one weep. Don’t be fooled by his attempts at political sleight of hand.

In conclusion, building a sizeable retail outlet in Waterford at this juncture appears nonsensical by any standard. The likely outcome is another failure under our belts and the possibility that future developers will be reluctant to invest against historic risk. Also, the question of who is responsible for failed planning applications is a little different to the lazy and self pitying popular perception espoused by Mr Wyse and various local media outlets. To sum up this issue, if I to go to 10 job interviews and fail in every single one, who is to blame? The potential employers? No. Clearly, there is something wrong with my interview process. I am either not presenting enough information, not communicating effectively with the interview panel, providing wrong information, not dressing appropriately etc. All of these issues are within my control to address. In much the same way, is it not the primary responsibility of the venture capitalists/developers, as represented by Gary Wyse and Fianna Fail, in partnership with the local authority to ensure from the outset that the planning process in Waterford is fairer, more realistic, more responsive to local concerns and thereby more efficient?

Paul W McCarthy

61 Morrisons Road

Waterford

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