Stakeholders in the Waterford area need to get together and plan for the future success of the region so as to take advantage of the coming huge investment in infrastructure, says prominent architect, businessman and Freeman of Waterford City, Nicky Fewer.
He firmly believes more forward planning is needed to assess where the city and county are today, relative to other regional capitals. Speaking exclusively to the Munster Express, Mr. Fewer said we needed to join the dots on all the various initiatives and make the most of the investment opportunities.
He noted that there had been much moaning of late because of the withdrawal of the buyer from the North Quays development site. But he pointed to the many positive signs ahead. Waterford needed to grow organically from where it was today and the prospects were very bright. A city’s success, or that of the region, was due to a number of factors.
According to Mr. Fewer, high consumer demand during the Celtic Tiger period of the economy has led to much investment in retail, both in the city and on the periphery like Ferrybank. 2. Public capital investment came through for the new bypass and dual carriageway to Dublin. He was recently invited on an air flight over the Southern Cross on the north side of the River Suir where Granagh bridge is located and noted what marvellous progress had been achieved on the new bypass. 3. Rail and airport investment will also be crucial and we are on course for extra trains to Dublin and a new expanded airport runway to be constructed for early 2010. 4. The expansion of Waterford Institute of Technology and possible upgrade to university status is also positive. 5. There will also be self serving investments from independent business operations which will prove positive. This could be for industry, property investment or tourism.
5 . The Waterside at the Gasworks, Railway Square, plans for the Waterford Stanley site in Bilberry and other developments along the Ring Road were all positive moves forward.
However, Mr. Fewer feels that this all needs to be pieced together and joined up in terms of thinking and strategy. The various stakeholders needed to get together and assemble a strategy for the region that made the maximum opportunity of those new advantages.
New vision and more branding
The whole brand of Waterford and the region needed to be reviewed to see how we could crystalise this terrific opportunity. The brand could cover tourism, education, industry, service, retail and the general positive quality of life that is available 100 miles from the capital Dublin. An added incentive is that it will soon be possible to access Dublin in less than two hours by car or ninety minutes by direct train from Plunkett to Heuston.
A new generation of people were out there now who thought differently and who wanted to invest and make Waterford better than it was today. Nicky says these people are working and investing and are possessed with tremendous vision and enthusiasm for the future. They will strive to ensure that Waterford can compete with other centres in Ireland and Europe.
Very significant projects are planned for the future, including the racecourse in Tramore, golf courses in the county and city centre developments. There is an opportunity for Waterford to move rapidly and become a centre of regional growth and achieve its significant potential appropriate for its size and stature.
“The population will grow to 180,000 from 120,000 in 10 years so we need to be positive and not complain as much and see what is coming up. We should think in terms of the commuter belt and a 120,000 population and not just 45,000”, he declared.
We needed to think beyond points of political tension like the Borough boundary on the north side and the west side with the county and, instead, see the area working together.
All the various pieces of infrastructure, whether it be a better train service, airport, city bypass, a shopping centre or new tourism facilities, added to an improved asset base for the region and built on the cumulative list that was already there.
“If we think back to the year 1975, the second bridge was still being debated”, he pointed out. But now we had a well planned compact city around two rivers, the John’s river and the Suir. From Carriganore to Bilberry and Granagh to Ferrybank, then onto the southern side with the Regional Hosptial, the John’s River / Gasworks area to Railway Square then onto Waterford Crystal to WIT and then the Ring Road. Within that compact area the city was very manageable for the future growth.
Good connectivity and a good spread of resources should see Waterford compete well internationally, he believes. A city can be built in a certain way to make the most of its potential. “We now have that opportunity”, feels Nicky, “and we need the stakeholders to get together, to establish fact-finding missions and see what else is out there in Europe or elsewhere so that we can make the most for the future of this generation and of the ones to come.”
“We need to think differently and more positively and seek new ways of work
whether it be in pharma or in the financial sector serving Dublin or other major cities but retaining the quality of life that would attract the highly skilled labour that is needed today. It is important to have the right critical mass that is needed for a successful city and region and we are so close to achieving that”, said Mr. Fewer.
He also believes strongly that Waterford Regional Airport affords an opportunity to create more inward tourism from Holland, France and the UK where there are now good, onward flight connections. Interested parties in Tourism needed to work together, something that had been achieved in Cork and Kerry where the advantage of Cork Airport were being utilised.