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.