The news that Waterford City and County Council is to finally move to tackle eyesore properties in The Glen has been widely welcomed by those who’ve watched one of the old town’s most iconic districts fall into decay.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Eamon Quinlan has received confirmation from the local authority’s Derelict Sites team that they have embarked on a campaign to pursue the owners of abandoned buildings, including the landmark former ‘Showboat’ pub and snooker club.
“The Glen was once at the beating heart of Waterford City, acting as a centre piece of commerce, transit and residential tenancies,” he says. However, over the past decade or more, numerous homes and businesses in this part of the inner city have boarded up.
The presence of so many run-down properties at “a main point of entry” into Waterford has created “a poor first impression,” the former mayor acknowledges, and it’s a situation that’s “all the more galling given the current demands for housing.”
He noted that on the national Pobal index of deprivation, The Glen and its surrounding area is classified as one of the most deprived areas of Waterford City – a far cry from its “heyday” as “the cradle of businesses such as Denny’s” when hundreds were employed and living there.
He believes the area still “has a lot going for it given how many people pass through it each day along with its proximity to areas like Ballybricken and the Cultural Quarter.
“Individuals made decisions to leave these properties idle and it is holding back the community that is still here. It has been a long road in pushing for the Council to break out the resources to truly tackle the area but to me it is a no brainer,” he added.
Waterford Council investigates reports of dereliction and undertakes action in accordance with the Derelict Sites Act 1990. This legislation allows it to include a property on a Derelict Sites Register, and to serve notice on the owner specifying works to be carried out to prevent or stop dereliction or placing the site on the register.
The Council also has the option of carrying out the necessary works themselves and charging the site owner(s) for the cost. To encourage owners to act, they can impose an annual levy of 7% of the market value, or in some cases, acquire a derelict site by agreement or compulsory purchase order.
As of now, a Derelict Sites notice has been placed on the front doors of the old ‘Showboat’ bar (whose owner is Minghui Song of Tullow, Co Carlow) as well as several adjacent houses. “I am aware that other properties in the immediate area are also under consideration for action under the Derelict Sites Act,” Cllr Quinlan says.
“These properties are all ones that have been abandoned for many years so there is not much of an argument against the Council taking a firm hand here.”
While the owners have an opportunity to restore the buildings themselves, if they don’t, “I intend for us to adopt responsibility here and get stuck into the whole area in a concerted manner rather than a piecemeal approach,” the FF representative continued.
“The Council have also purchased the large apartment block in between the Forum and Aldi. There are several routes to water here as the saying goes and we should plump for all options to get families living in these houses again, restore old properties, and reward those who have stayed loyal to the area by giving them good neighbours… and potentially new customers for those operating businesses in the area.”
When asked about the prospect of ‘The Showboat’ being restored as a pub, Cllr Quinlan said it was important that the process was “followed correctly to avoid challenges and that after a reasonable amount of time, should the current owners fail to take the required action as defined under the Act, then the Council can move to restore them.
“The Council would make lousy publicans. There already are several pubs in the area. If the Council wind up calling the shots here, most likely it would be repurposed into accommodation similar to say what happened to the Old Black Tie menswear of Patrick Street in the City or the old St Ledger Pub in Tramore,” he suggested.