Businesses along the Abbey and Dock Roads in Ferrybank have been left pondering their long-term futures after Waterford City & County Council issued Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for lands on which they are currently located.
Aliona Balanuta, proprietor of the popular Taste Buds Café on the Abbey Road, said the CPO notification, which she learned of just 24 hours prior to its publication in The Munster Express last Tuesday, had left her future “up in the air”.
Ms Balanuta, previously based at the Café Royal on The Mall admitted that had she known this CPO would arrive less than six months after setting up shop in Ferrybank, she would not have taken out a five-year lease on the premises.
“I am very happy here – very happy – but I would not have opened this business here, had I know about this CPO then,” she admitted. “Now I may be left trying to find another place in Ferrybank, and I feel this will not be easy.”
James Gannon of Abbey Precast, who has been in situ for the past 17 years, said: “The word ‘compulsory’ has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? I’m surprised by it; I’d heard nothing about this until last Tuesday (via a registered letter) and I’d prefer not to have to think about moving, to be honest…as for what lies ahead, right now, who knows?”
Speaking to this newspaper, Waterford City & County Council’s Paul Daly said that the local authority had begun communicating with the potentially affected businesses and “will be dealing with them as the process goes on”.
Objections to the CPO can be submitted to An Bord Pleanála by 5pm on Friday, August 25th.
James Gannon of Abbey Precast said the prospect of having to move his long-established business “wouldn’t be ideal”.
Looking out from his premises, which is opposite the Abbey Community College and the Little Sisters of the Poor (both of which have had small parcels of land included in the CPO), James stressed: “Look, I don’t mind seeing works going in Ferrybank; it’d be great to see something being done for the area, but the cost of this, I don’t really know. This is all news to me, it’s all a bit fresh so I don’t know what’s going to happen really.”
Waterford City & County Council envisage widening the road in question so as to facilitate traffic movements in and out of the North Quays during the redevelopment’s construction phase. Added to this, it’s envisaged that the road will form a long term road link to another navigation-friendly river crossing, linking the Abbey Road to The Mall in due course.
The letter James and his business neighbours received from the Council moreorless carried all of the same information that the two-page public notice in last Tuesday’s edition carried, including the August 25th deadline for objections.
He added: “I don’t know what exactly the Council’s plan for this area is yet, but I’ve been based here now for 17 years, just myself, plodding away, and I’d be very happy to stay put, to be honest.”
Sitting in the Monday sunshine as the lunchtime rush passed at the Taste Buds Café, Aliona Balanuta said the café had become a popular meeting point in Ferrybank.
“I am really happy to be based here, but then last Tuesday came the registered letter from the Council about the CPO,” she told The Munster Express.
“So I contacted my landlord and he said he didn’t have a lot of information and that he was going to contact the Council to get some more detail. I did feel somewhat better about it in the sense that I had heard something about this the day before, but in saying that, it has still come as a very big surprise, as I had hoped what I had been told was just a rumour. But then the letter arrived from the Council and now it’s all very real.”
Having also applied for a wine licence, Aliona has been forced to put off plans to refurbish the café’s kitchen, much to her disappointment.
“We have to object to this. We do not know what impact this will have but I know this is what we must do; we must submit this objection. And many people from Ferrybank who enjoy coming here are not happy with this, as it looks like nobody has asked the community for their opinion, and the Council has not talked to the community about this. Leaving them and the businesses that are operating here in the dark like this does not seem to be very fair.”
She added: “It’s a nice area, we’ve got free parking here, we’re on the other side of the road from the (Abbey) College but now I may well have to relocate, which I really hope I will not have to do.”
Both Ms Balanuta and Mr Gannon confirmed that the only formal communication they have received from the Council at the time of writing was last Tuesday’s registered letter. “Ideally, I would not like to move, but if I have to, then my preference would be to maintain my business in this area. And I really hope the people making decisions will take into account what we have to say in our objections.”
Meanwhile, Carmel Kikkers, who runs her Focus Visual Communications and SwimFitPool businesses with her husband Jacko in a unit located down a slip road between the Top Service Station and the Flour Mill, “had an idea” that this news was coming.
“Apparently the Council had approached our landlord but he didn’t really want to sell and he was quite happy for us to keep leasing the business as we do – it’s unfortunate, it really is.”
Ms Kikkers added: “We’re there for the past two years and we really don’t know what’s going to happen and how long all of this is going to take. It’s difficult because it suits us very well as we’re living in Slieverue and it’s hard to find business property on this side of town.”