Eoghan Dalton Reports
Funding must be delivered for the North Quays by the end of March, according to the chief executive of Waterford City and County Council (WCCC).Promises surrounding the project’s future were a part of Fine Gael’s pre-election pledges doubts over funding for key elements of the project including relocating the train station and the pedestrian bridge. Addressing last Councillors last Thursday, 13th February, Michael Walsh said “it’s absolutely imperative” that funding is confirmed by the end of March.
The matter was raised by Cllrs Jason Murphy and Adam Wyse (both FF) with the latter asking: “How much longer are we willing to wait as a council?“Are we talking you’ll wait six more months, one more year, two more years before we get confirmation? I know it’s up to whoever is in Government to probably approve a few things.”He added that the “more pressing question” was how much longer is developer Fawaz Alhokair willing to wait.
Mr Walsh also told the chamber that the WCCC needs “absolute clarity” on funding for the development.“What we are seeking is final confirmation of the phasing of the total funding and that the total funding will be provided,” he said.
“What is certain is that the schemes are approved in principle and there was an initial funding tranche there but, we need absolute confirmation before we can enter into contracts or otherwise that we will have the funding for the totality of the schemes.”While confirmation is awaited on further money via the Urban Regeneration and Redevelopment Fund (URDF) the latest audit of the local authority shows that there had been a cumulative expenditure on the project of €8.3m by the end of 2018. Local Government Auditor James Moran said that money had gone towards demolition, land acquisition and consultant’s fees for preliminary design.
Mr Moran added said that a “key objective” for WCCC management is the securing of more funding, “as further considerable expenditure commitments have been entered into during 2019 for land acquisition, design fees and enabling development works, for drainage and energy supply, some of which may require to be funded from the Council’s own resources”.
Council boss Michael Walsh, whose response is recorded in the audit, said: “Every effort is being made to secure funding and a revised capital program will be prepared for the Members once this is determined.”
The Saudi-backed Falcon Real Estate submitted its application for planning permission to WCCC in December.Subject to the granting of planning permission, work on the project is likely to start by the fourth quarter of this year. It is hoped that the eight-hectare real estate mixed use scheme will provide over 2,800 new jobs on site by 2023.The project description is a mixed use development; to include seven storey twin block comprising 15,000 square metres of prime office space; five residential buildings ranging in height from 7 to 17 storeys; 300 riverside apartments to accommodate 500 to 600 residents; and a 15 storey 220-room 4-star hotel and conference centre.