Planning permission for projects within the pending North Quays development on the Ferrybank side of Waterford City could well be forthcoming before year’s end, paving the way for actual groundwork to commence towards creation of the ambitious “vision” so long talked about for the area.
That emerged at Monday night’s monthly meeting of the City Council at which the members were presented with an Urban Design Framework Plan for the scheme.
The plan will now go on public display for up to eight weeks, with an invitation for submissions and a series of open workshops are to be held to help interested parties understand the various elements of the concept.
The latter undertaking was given by City Manager Michael Walsh who said that once the framework was adopted at the end of the consultation period it would be open to developers to submit planning applications. He could see that happening by the middle of the year, with decisions being handed down by year’s end.
The plan was prepared by the Dublin firm Loci Urban Design Architecture and Planning, in consultation with the City Council and “a group of key stakeholders”.
Its objectives were to present and agree a broad vision for the North Quays, prepare basic development concepts and bring together an integrated framework plan, provide a set of key urban design guidelines and set out measures for implementation.
The stated vision for the area is to create a sustainable, modern and innovative extension of the city centre, with the opportunity to connect the city centre and Ferrybank and in the process create a rich quality of life and a unique sense of place.
Among the aims are to provide a diverse mix of uses, with no single dominant function, where a balance of living, working, retail services and recreation can be achieved; to create a framework of public and civic spaces of character and visual quality; to create a waterfront that is a focus for complementary land and water-based activities and recreation; and to provide for sustainable patterns of movement and access with priority for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.
It is an objective of the plan to ensure an overall use mix of 50 p.c. residential and 50 p.c. commercial and non-residential. And a range of residential units will be promoted to encourage a diversity of household sizes.
A proposed pedestrian bridge across the river will be a key enabler of development and can potentially serve as an icon for the area and the city generally, according to the blurb accompanying the plan.
Potential for a Youth Maritime Resource Centre, which would help consolidate Waterford’s maritime traditions, is identified at the eastern end of the site. There is also an opportunity to develop an outdoor ‘floating’ public baths adjacent to the waterfront.
The crane tower is a unique remnant of the area’s dockland heritage and one of few such surviving features. It is an objective of the plan that the crane structure and associated tracks be conserved as a reminder of that heritage and, if feasible, rehabilitated to accommodate a new waterfront related activity.
The document recommends that the feasibility of providing a water taxi linking the South and North Quays should be investigated, although significant new development would have to occur before such an initiative would be commercially viable.
“There is an opportunity to anchor commercial and residential development and to attract major cultural events to Waterford by developing a new multi-purpose venue of regional significance”, state the authors of the plan. “Such a venue, which the city currently lacks, would have a medium to large seating capacity with capability to be used for a variety of related functions, such as theatre or concert hall, conference and educational facility. The preferred location would occupy a waterfront position towards the east end of the overall site”.
A second, more centrally located waterfront site adjacent to the landing of the proposed pedestrian bridge, is identified for a smaller scale civic building of citywide significance, incorporating retail, service and commercial functions.
The framework plan will inform both the preparation and assessment of detailed planning applications and will have statutory effect as a Local Area Plan within the meaning of the Planning and Development Act.
The authors advise: “It is imperative to avoid an ad-hoc approach to development that will prejudice the proper planning and sustainable development of the North Quays. This will require a coordinated approach to delivery. It is recommended that formal delivery arrangements be put in place to guide and monitor implementation of the plan and to provide strategic direction”.
In that regard the establishment of a representative multi-sector steering group is recommended, as is the devising of a detailed implementation programme setting out necessary coordination measures, priorities, responsibilities and phasing.
It is also recommended that the City Council prepares a Supplementary Development Contributions Scheme under Section 49 of the Planning Act to defray the costs of infrastructural provision that will be of benefit to developers. The Council should investigate too other sources of capital funding available for specific projects through various National Development Plan Sectoral Programmes and Gateway Innovation Funding.
The recommended next steps are: 1. Set up the North Quays Area Steering and Monitoring Group; 2. Devise a detailed programme of necessary coordination and enabling measures; 3. Prepare a Supplementary Development Contributions Scheme; 4. Prepare an Alternative Energy and Environmental Strategy for the area; Identify and prepare competition design briefs for key elements, including waterfront spaces, pedestrian bridge and landmark buildings.