There was widespread shock in Waterford city this week when, to everybody’s surprise, it emerged that property developer Noel Frisby and his wife, planning consultant Stephanie Taheny, are in the process of purchasing the 16-acre People’s Park from the City Council in a complicated deal said to be worth in excess of €100m.
The prospective owners intend to build a large, private residence for themselves at the South Parade end of the park. High density apartment housing is planned for the areas facing on to St. Declan’s School and De La Salle College while a Marks and Spencer supermarket with an extensive car-parking area is envisaged for the stretch of park facing the Park Road and Waterpark College.
The Munster Express understands the Frisby family will pay €20m in cash and the remainder by signing over to the City Council a landbank of forty acres with access from the Outer Ring Road.
The Mayor, Councillor Mary O’Halloran, said she was ‘absolutely flabbergasted and fit to be tied’ as she regarded The People’s Park as a ‘rare jewel and unique among Irish cities’. It was, she insisted, an amenity that should be retained for future generations of Waterfordians.
Councillor Davy Daniels, who has always stated that the ‘Park’ was one of his priorities since the first day he was elected, was much more trenchant in his views. “This is not a done deal and it can still be stopped”, he raged. “If this goes ahead, I will resign my seat and I know there are other councilors who will follow suit. If I have to, I will lie down in front of the bulldozers”, he vowed.
A spokesperson for the City Council said the news had leaked out prematurely as it had not been intended to make an announcement until Tuesday next when the final contracts were due to be signed. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and that won’t happen until Tuesday next”, said the spokesperson. He also insisted that the ancient charter governing ownership of The People’s Park allowed for an executive decision to be made by senior officials without having to refer to the elected representatives.
“To be honest, this was too good a deal to be ignored”, said the spokesperson. “At present, it costs us a fortune to maintain the park and the only people using it are children in the playground, elderly people strolling about the place every day like they own it and young people who spend most of their time playing football or courting after dark. It’s a lot of trouble and doesn’t earn us a bob. The bottom line is that everything will be explained on Tuesday next”, he concluded.
Asked what they intended to do with the money raised by the controversial sale, the spokesperson said no decision had yet been taken but that the elected representatives would be consulted. Neither Noel Frisby nor Stephanie Taheny was available for comment.
(NOTE: This was an April Fools joke.)