John Deasy says the Receiver tasked with selling the former glass factory properties needs to know that any proposal to change the purpose of a pitch currently used by Dungarvan United AFC will not be entertained by Waterford City and County Council.
For the past 25 years United have availed of a playing field owned by Waterford Crystal in Receivership. It backs directly onto Kilrush Park — the soccer club’s home ground since 1980.
Commonly known as “The Crystal Pitch”, it is zoned for ‘Open Space’ under the Dungarvan Town Development Plan, 2012-2018. This zoning is designed “to preserve and enhance Open Space areas and Amenity Areas for passive and active recreational uses”.
John Deasy says: “I’ve been in contact with the Council and it’s time they made it clear to the Receiver that this pitch will not be used for anything other than soccer club purposes.”
Acting for Waterford Crystal Ltd in Receivership, Deloitte have been in discussions on the sale of both the former Waterford Crystal factory in Dungarvan and the separate Sports and Leisure Club site roughly a kilometre away.
Late last year the Receiver’s solicitors served notice on United to stop using the Crystal Pitch with immediate effect.
Doing so would mean getting rid of 14 teams and “decimate the club,” says Dungarvan chairman David Walsh. The use of their main playing field and the Crystal Pitch is split evenly among all teams, whilst the latter is also used predominantly for training. With 27 teams (male and female) from under-6s up, having a second field is essential.
John Deasy has been in regular contact with both club and senior local authority officials over the past year. “At this stage the Council needs to make it abundantly clear to the Receiver that this pitch, if sold to a third party, is not going to be permitted for any other use, and it will be making no change to the zoning of this particular site,” he says.
After being instructed to desist from using the pitch, Dungarvan United were subsequently invited through law firm A&L Goodbody, representing the Receiver, to make an offer for the land and buildings before the site went on general sale.
However, the club is heavily in debt due to ongoing investment in its facilities (including pitch drainage works, astroturf, a new covered stand and floodlights) and “borrowing more funds is not realistic,” David Walsh says.
Despite this fact, the club made two offers to the Receiver last February — one for the playing pitch, another for the entire lot, including the disused Crystal clubhouse. If accepted, either bid would have to be met through further local fundraising.
“This potential securing of these lands would be a fantastic outcome as the club prepares to mark its 50th anniversary in 2016,” says the chairman, who believes the current zoning of the lands should “reduce the value of the site considerably.”
In recent weeks United have been informed that the Receiver is now dealing with another interested party in connection with the property, and would only “consider” engaging with United should those negotiations prove unsuccessful.
This has left the club’s committee in limbo, after years of modernising and forward planning. Many of its hundreds of members would have connections to the old Dungarvan Crystal team and the factory workers.
With the permission of the Crystal Centre Committee, the club effected a clean-up of the centre’s old vandalised tennis courts and laid out a grassed training area for schoolboy teams. This land was previously a magnet for vandalism and anti-social behavior, which has reduced dramatically as a result, much to the relief of residents of the area.
John Deasy says: “The club needs to be dealt with on a fair basis given their contribution to the wider community and the Council should now intervene to ensure that the Receiver is under no illusions as to what will be allowed.
“If this is a tactic to engineer arbitration for the pitch it is ill-advised. The people selling this land need to engage constructively with the soccer club for the first time since this process started,” the local TD added.
“To see the Giant’s Causeway promoted on the Wild Atlantic Way website while a large chunk of the southern seaboard is left out is slightly incongruous.”
Waterford is to be allowed to make a formal case for inclusion in the Wild Atlantic Way.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy has secured a commitment from Tourism Minister Michael Ring to facilitate a presentation to officials from Fáilte Ireland and his Department.
The Waterford deputy made the request in the Dáil on Wednesday (April 15), notwithstanding the previous morning’s launch of ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’, a new marketing promotion based around heritage sites and cultural assets.
Last July Mr Deasy met Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn and persuaded the tourism body to let Waterford City and County Council pitch to become part of the Wild Atlantic Way.
But while the Waterford local authority set to work on a submission, council officials in Cork have not pushed for east Cork’s inclusion, leaving an obvious missing link to the touring route’s conclusion in Kinsale.
Mr Deasy sees Waterford Airport as an ideal south-eastern starting point for the WAW touring route. The new VLM Waterford—London Luton service will operate 12 flights each way weekly from April 27, with strong bookings so far.
Having “bent the ear of every official and politician for the past four years to secure funding to keep the airport going until a new London carrier was found”, Mr Deasy says “it’s now time to give it the chance to become self-sustaining, which is what Governments have repeatedly said they’ve wanted.”
With the State having invested massively in Waterford Airport — including €10m in upgrading the access road alone — he says “it’s critical that the Government now starts connecting projects to the infrastructure… and this is how you do it.”
While by no means being negative about or dismissing the potential of the ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ product — which, he feels, “can work if marketed properly” around attractions such as the Viking Triangle in Waterford City — “there’s no escaping the fact that it doesn’t focus on the county’s coastline in any shape or form.”
“Our priority is marketing our spectacular coast,” he said, saying Wild Atlantic Way status would work in tandem with a number of major tourism-led projects, such as the Deise Greenway, the UNESCO Copper Coast Geopark, and the regeneration of Tramore.
Mr Deasy added, “To see the Giant’s Causeway promoted on the Wild Atlantic Way website while a large chunk of the southern seaboard is left out is slightly incongruous.”
He rejected the idea that Waterford’s inclusion would “dilute the essence” of the Wild Atlantic Way, saying: “This is not about looking for a hand-out. We feel we can add greatly to the overall proposition and only want in on merit. I’m asking that we get the opportunity to make that case.”
While emphasising the potential of ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ “if communities buy in to it,” Minister Ring acknowledged that the Wild Atlantic Way has been “a tremendous success” in selling Ireland overseas.
Willing to respond “in a very positive manner”, the Minister said he had “no problem” in facilitating a presentation from Waterford officials. “I will set up that opportunity for him... and I will sit in on it myself.”
He added afterwards: “Clinching the London link was key. The future of the airport here was very tenuous. Remember, Galway and Sligo have shut down to commercial flights. It was about buying time.
“We now have the new routes but we have to build on it. As I said in the Dáil, it is now critical for the Government to consider the airport’s future and not simply to say ‘Job done’.”
He cautioned that connecting east Cork remains a serious obstacle Waterford joining the Wild Atlantic Way. “There are people in west Cork who would like it to end there; one factor being the concerns surrounding the huge debt attached to Cork Airport.
“But as well as talking to Waterford Airport management I also met the relevant officials in the Department recently and I think they agree that Cork, with 54 routes versus our two, is not comparable and that including us in the Wild Atlantic Way wouldn’t have an adverse tourism impact elsewhere.”