Deasy: Work to start within a couple of weeks
Waterford TD John Deasy says loan finance is to be made available by Government to finish phase 3 of the stalled Carriganore Sports Complex.
Work is to commence within the next fortnight and will be completed in June.
Deputy Deasy, who is vice-chairman of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, had called on the State to step in to facilitate the completion of the complex, work on which ground to a halt over three years ago.
The PAC recently received documents indicating that costs will be significantly more than anticipated. In a report, Eugene McKenna, former CEO of Diverse Campus Services — the company tasked with delivering the project — blamed leadership and governance issues for work stopping in 2012.
While he wouldn’t disagree with that analysis, John Deasy says it’s important to “move on and ensure that the uncertainty surrounding the project was ended.
“Myself and the chairman John McGuinness have made it clear at the committee that leaving the building like it is simply isn’t an option. When the Higher Education Authority appeared before us last January it estimated the shortfall at €5m. The Department of Education had already committed €2.9m to the project but a realistic means of financing the remainder needed to be found.”
The HEA has already said WIT “overstretched” in advancing its own independent building programme before running into funding problems. The Phase 3 ‘Carriganore Arena’ element was meant to cost €9.7m. But financing issues arose within the college after €6.5m was spent and the multi-purpose building is still largely idle and incomplete.
When the Department was at the committee in September it indicated that a loan was being looked at. This financing has now been agreed on terms that are manageable. Deputy Deasy says the priority is to finish what’s been started, regardless of the various legacy issues.
“The PAC has been dealing with the Department for the past year on this and the WIT debt situation. I think there was a realisation from officials that the State needed to step in and give the Institute a helping hand.”
The Fine Gael TD said new WIT president Willie Donnelly “has steadied the ship and we’re close to being on the right track, finally, to becoming a university, which is the most important thing.”
City Centre must come first
Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy says redeveloping the North Quays is not the main priority when it comes to getting government funding for the City.
“The top priority remains the NAMA/Michael Street development (pictured) incorporating a glazed Apple Market area. There is an absolute necessity to develop a major retail sector in Waterford city.
“The second priority is completing the Waterford Greenway between Dungarvan and the City, and the third is the regeneration of Tramore town centre.”
He said: “Discussions with the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform on a limited set of investments sought by Waterford City and County Council have been ongoing since late last year, and a decision is expected soon.”
This proposed stimulus package to help accelerate the city’s slow recovery involves a total ‘ask’ of over €14 million in terms of the Exchequer, and “while we’re still not sure how much money will be made available, we hope to get a good share of that,” Deasy added.
The rest of the €22m required will come from the local authority, who’ve made certain provision in their capital programme, and possibly some level of matching EU Regional Development Funding.
The North Quays — various plans for which have been mooted since 1998 — wasn’t prioritised in the expert group’s report underpinning last year’s council merger; though demolition work on the silos there is about to start.
Deasy said: “Once funding is secured for the priorities already identified, if there’s additional money made available under the new capital investment framework, then the development of the North Quays becomes a possibility.”
Taking the initiative from inception to launch
Having lobbied for a new urban regeneration scheme for Waterford to be extended beyond Georgian buildings to all pre-1915 properties, John Deasy says the revised Living City Initiative launched recently means hundreds of additional residences will qualify for the incentives.
“To definitively determine whether their property is included in the scheme people should contact Waterford City and County Council’s Economic Development team,” he said. “The map is strictly defined and there are stringent criteria and various restrictions/options that should be studied.”
Aimed at revitalising run-down town centres, the scheme will see two types of tax allowances applied to works carried out to century-old houses and certain commercial properties within a specific zone, whose scope is wider than originally intended.
Drawn up by the Department of Finance in consultation with the local Council and Revenue, the Waterford ‘special regeneration area’ — which will be operative over a five-year qualifying period — effectively comprises the entire old inner city.
As well as focusing on some of Waterford’s most historic streets and thoroughfares, the designated area also takes in some sites on the far side of Rice Bridge, including the derelict north wharves.
On the opposite bank its boundary begins beyond the brewery block and follows the line of the River Suir right along the South Quays before winding around Waterpark College as far as Glenville.
There it shifts across to the Dunmore Road, back in along Passage Road, and over to Ballytruckle and Poleberry; continues on in to Manor Street, Barrack Street, Cannon Street, Slievekeale Road, Morrissons Road, Upper Yellow Road, Military Road and Gracedieu Road; before rejoining the river at Grattan Quay to complete the main loop.
Having pushed to get the scheme widened to maximise its uptake here — “The initial 2013 version was confined to Georgian era buildings, which Waterford has very few of, so a much broader interpretation of ‘old’ was needed” — John Deasy says it gives those with the resources to renovate an opportunity to write off the cost against their income.
The first type of relief available allows owner-occupiers of properties originally built as dwellings before 1915 to carry out refurbishment or conversion works and deduct the outlay from their income tax over 10 years.
The second element will enable investors to claim capital allowances — spread over seven years — for the refurbishment or conversion of premises used for retail or providing local services.
There’s no ceiling on the total commercial spend, just the relief, which is capped at €200,000 per project — a requirement to get past EU State aid rules, which delayed the scheme’s roll-out. In all cases works must cost at least 10% of the property’s existing market value.
Some 80% of architects and auctioneers surveyed in Waterford suggested a significant direct employment impact from the scheme, which is also being introduced in other main urban centres, including Kilkenny and Cork.
“Refurbishment of old buildings is very labour intensive and high-standard work, and over half the capital spend would be expected to go on tradespeople and related services,” John said.