The increasingly algae-clad exterior of the Ferrybank Centre has come in for further criticism at the December meeting of the Piltown Municipal District, which meets under the roof of the still largely empty building.
“This white elephant has now been standing here for the past nine years and now it’s starting to deteriorate, as anyone walking or driving by it has seen for months on end at this stage,” said Cllr Melissa O’Neill (Ind).
“I first raised the cleaning of the outside of the building two years ago, and nothing has been done. NAMA, to the best of my knowledge, have control of the building and someone is pouring money into it, you only have to look at the car park downstairs here to see that. But between the look of the building and the broken fences going into Bellfield, you’d think nobody has any responsibility for it, and that’s just not good enough. We’ve Christmas lights hanging up now on the building, but they’re hanging up over dirt, which is just such a pity since we’ve such a pro-active community here, who want to see this building put to good use.”
A frustrated Cllr O’Neill added: “It’s two years since I asked about the outside of the centre being cleaned, there’s thousands gone into the car park and we can’t even get the outside cleaned; we can’t seem to get the people responsible to give it a power washing. It’s bad enough that we’re sitting in a €120 million white elephant, but we can’t even get it cleaned. I really feel we should write a letter to the owner and demand that they clean it. It’s disgraceful that we even have to do that and I really feel they’ve taken us and the community for a ride here.”
Cllr Ger Frisby (FF) echoed Cllr O’Neill’s sentiments, stating: “There’s no two ways about it. We have to try and get something done about this as it clearly needs to be cleaned up.”
Also referencing the fenced area to the rear of the centre adjoining the local soccer club and the Bellfield residential estate, Cllr Frisby said the collapsed fencing and loitering in the area had increased local levels of anti-social behaviour.
“There’s a lot of hassle being caused there and if the fences were fully secured, it’d at least make it harder for people to get in there and cause hassle for local residents, which we know is going on, so we need to make some sort of a push to get something done about the centre and the fencing.”
Cllr O’Neill re-entered the debate, stating: “A new heating system has been installed on the roof, which is serving the whole of the building. Now whoever is doing this can’t be doing all the work they’re doing for nothing, so why can’t the exterior of the centre be cleaned while all this other work is going on?”
Kilkenny County Council Senior Engineer (Planning) Denis Malone told the meeting: “This is an operational building and it has to be maintained, and Cllr O’Neill is right in thinking that the system she mentioned caters for the entire building. She’s also correct in stating that the building is with NAMA and the original developer is now managing the scheme for NAMA.”
Mr Malone added: “NAMA are still pursuing Dunnes Stores to occupy the centre, to stock it and staff it but as we know, they are still resisting that…and a planning application which was made last year was to satisfy planning compliance.”
Acknowledging that the building’s exterior needed to be cleaned, “it’s looking a bit tacky now,” Mr Malone said the Centre’s management will be contacted with a view to getting this long overdue clean-up request addressed.
He also reminded Councillors that IDA Ireland have been looking at the building with a view to presenting it as an Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) option but that such progress could only be accelerated, in all likelihood, once the Dunnes issue is finally settled.