Councillors adopted the Waterford City & County Development Plan 2022 to 2028 at a special meeting last week.

The Development Plan was adopted at a meeting held in the Civic Offices in Dungarvan on Tuesday last.

Cllr Mary Roche (Ind) paid tribute to staff in the Council’s Planning department for “a good day’s work”. She said she was hopeful no alterations would be made to the plan by any external body.

“I have no doubt there are people who will say we missed things, but we can only do so much,” she said. “Councillors are not experts. We rely on the expertise within the Planning office and other areas. We do our best as the mandated representatives of Waterford city and county.”

Cllr Thomas Phelan (Lab) also commended the Planning department as well as Mayor Joe Kelly, his predecessor Mayor Damien Geoghegan as well as CEO Michael Walsh. He described the plan as a “mammoth undertaking” against the backdrop of Covid-19 and noted it was the first such plan for the amalgamated City and County Council.

“We should be proud of ourselves for getting it to this stage,” he said, adding that he hopes it “passes mustard” with the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR).

Cllr Conor McGuinness (SF) noted the amount of public participation which had taken place.

“It happened during a particularly difficult time with Covid when it wasn’t always easy to engage with the public,” he said. “We’ve done our very best within the constraints of both national and regional planning.”

He said housing remains one of the “existential threats facing society” and expressed his hope that developers will “take this opportunity to address the crisis in housing by building more units”.

Cllr John O’Leary (FF) said there had been many questions asked and answers given throughout the process, and said it was now time for the plan to go before the OPR and the Minister. He described it as a “blueprint for the city and county for the next six years”.

“We were voted the Best City in Ireland to live in and will remain so,” he said.

“The number of submissions received shows people are interested in their city and county,” he added.

Cllr Lola O’Sullivan (FG) said the process “wasn’t always harmonious” but said Councillors now have “something we can be proud of”.  She thanked members of the Planning department for their patience.

“I hope the OPR realise the time and effort everyone has put in to get this plan to where it is,” she said.

Cllr Seanie Power (FG) said he was delighted that the Council’s rural housing policy had been saved.

“We fought hard for it as rural councillors,” he said. “We need to keep our schools, sports clubs, and shops alive.”

Cllr Jody Power (Green Party) thanked CEO Michael Walsh for his leadership. He said he was very proud of his fellow councillors who worked on the Development Plan and “worked really well together”.

“The betterment of Waterford city and county was always to the fore,” he said.

He described the workshops which were held as “productive and efficient”.

Cllr Liam Brazil (FG) said the process had been “intense” and noted that Councillors had “clashed with officials”.

“As a rural based councillor, I’m happy leaving this evening,” he said.

Cllr Brazil said Councillors had been told that the rural housing plan “will work for people in rural Waterford”.

“For people born and reared in the countryside, and who want to build houses, it’s great that they can,” he said. “It took a full team to get this plan to where it is. Hopefully there won’t be any more changes.”

Cllr Donal Barry (Ind) described the plan as “one of the most important documents produced, which will shape future development of our city and county for the next six years”.

He said it was a blueprint for “future growth and prosperity” and would help build “a sustainable city and county”.

Cllr Cristíona Kiely (Green Party) described the development plan as “strong and robust” and a “really good example of compromise”.

“It will lead to the regeneration of our rural towns and villages,” she said.

Council CEO Michael Walsh noted that the plan had been “in adherence to national policy but also expressed democratic wishes”.

He thanked councillors and noted the “sheer volume of work” involved, including meetings, readings, submissions and interactions with the Council’s Planning team and others.

Mayor Joe Kelly said the process had been “robust and interesting” and an eye-opener for councillors who had been engaged in the process for the first time.

“It was an interesting exercise in democracy and how we develop plans for the future of our city and county,” he said.

He thanked all members for their engagement and debates.

“We’re all elected to do a job, and a critical part of that job is developing this plan,” he said.  “We did as reasonably well as can be expected.”

Given that it was the first plan combining both Waterford city and county, he said it had been an “enormous task”.

“Staff have been superbly professional in their approach,” he said. “Hopefully the OPR will see the sense of what we’ve done and there will be no need to amend any part of it.”

He thanked all his fellow Councillors and his predecessor as Mayor Cllr Damien Geoghegan.

“I’m glad it’s over,” he added.

Author: Kieran Foley