independent

Thursday 13 December 2018

Councillors air their views on Trinity Wharf

Maria Pepper

Wexford councillors have been assured that the adjacent community of Maudlintown will not be socially excluded from an ambitious multi-million Euro plan for a new business park and urban quarter incorporating a hotel, marina, offices, housing and cultural centre on a 10-acre site on its doorstep at Trinity Wharf.

A draft master plan for the development which will also feature a multi-storey car park and civic spaces, was unveiled last week by Head of Special Projects Brian Galvin, with the intention of applying for planning permission to An Bord Pleanála next October.

The infrastructure and civic spaces will be built by the Council at an approximate cost of €10 million while the offices and commercial buildings will be delivered through a series of public-private partnerships at a cost of up to €70 million.

The Council estimates that Trinity Wharf has the capacity to create over 1,000 jobs in technology and financial services sectors over the next five to 10 years.

The plan is due to be placed on informal public display within the next few weeks to allow the public to view the details and offer their comments. After this, the drawings will be finalised and an application submitted to An Bord Pleanála for approval, a process which will require a statutory public consultation procedure.

Councillors welcomed the plan at a District meeting and raised concerns and questions about a number of aspects including existing harbour use and maritime heritage, the employment of Wexford contractors during the lucrative building phase, social inclusion and traffic management.

'There is a tendency for these types of developments to become socially exclusive in some elements', said Cllr. Tony Walsh of People Before Profit.

'I would like to use part of the plan to extend the social inclusiveness as much as possible and to include that it in the draft master plan. I went up to look at the site the other day and to see what's going to be possible is amazing. Wexford needs an uplift'.

'We would be very anxious that this is an open development and that there will be social inclusion', responded Brian Galvin.

Chief Executive Tom Enright said the Council understands the need to have social inclusion. Describing Maudlintown as one of the most deprived areas in the county, he said the local authority had no intention of putting in a high-end development and having a local community isolated from it and there would be walking and cycling linkage and integration between the two areas.

'We see a playground and other facilities that the community will be able to avail of. We would like to see a lot of social inclusion on the site'.

Cllr. George Lawlor said he wouldn't like to see the waterfront project interfering with the existing use of that section of harbour by sailing cots and a kayak club,and was told by the CEO that they were looking at creating another slipway.

Cllr. Ger Carthy asked if the County Council could include procurement criteria that would allow the involvement of Wexford contractors who initially could not apply to build the proposed Min Ryan Park until the collapse of the original company. 'A lot of contractors in this county will rise or fall on the work we provide' he said. Director of Services Edde Taaffe said Wexford workers would get construction jobs no matter who the contractors were and added that there was a high level of employment space within the development itself.

The CEO said the criteria are never set to exclude local contractors and the Council would always like to see Wexford contractors getting work.

'It's not that we were excluding Wexford contractors, we were excluding smaller contractors who might not have had the experience required. We are governed by EU and national procurement criteria. We would like to be doing work with local contractors who step up to the scale of the projects we are tendering for. We would hope Wexford contractors will play a part in this but we can't guarantee that', he said.

Describing it as 'a hugely ambitious project', Cllr. Jim Moore asked if a traffic analysis had been carried out. He said the only access for the quays is William Street and he wondered what impact the development would have on traffic. 'If you're going to develop a site of that size and a lot of it is employment related, you're going to have a bigger bottleneck, in the absence of a cross-town link', he said.

Cllr. Moore said quite a lot of activities are being undertaken on the site and he wondered how confident the Council is that companies will support the development. 'It's not every enterprise that wants to be housed between residential on one side and a hotel and marina on the other. We have put a lot into the site'.

Mr. Galvin said traffic would be addressed. The proposal is for a new entrance and an automated level crossing on the rail line, similar to crossings on the Dart in Dublin, providing secure vehicular access to the site and a bridge across Paul Quay providing a pedestrian and cycling link. A new boardwalk will link Trinity Wharf to the Crescent.

The plan is to have a shared space inside where people can walk and the multi-storey car park and vehicular area will be placed away from that.

'We need to do the studies and it will be addressed', said Mr. Galvin.

A two-acre site in Drinagh which was previously earmarked for a Garda Station is now in the ownership of the Council which has a planning application in for a Greenway cycling route to Curraloe which will run through the Trinity Wharf development, with a further plan for a Greenway from Wexford to Rosslare. This will allow people a park and ride facility in Drinagh, according to the CEO.

Mr. Enright said the need for a new IDA business park was identified three years ago as the existing park is full but if the Council was to build a business park on its own, it would have no evening activity and could become a haven for anti-social behaviour.

'There is considerable interest among financial service companies in locating in Ireland post-Brexit so there are great opportunities in that sector.'

He said the Trinity Wharf project with restaurants, bars and a 120-bedroom hotel will be a flagship development for the county in terms of local authority investment. The public cost will be in the region of €10 million and the Council will be hoping to secure grants for some of that while the private investment will be of the order of €50 to €70 million. 'We are looking for people with a track record in that kind of investment. We will have to go through a public process to find that kind of partner- we will be starting that in the autumn', said the Chief Executive. A decision from an Bord Pleanála on the first infrastructural phase will be expected by the spring or summer of next year with construction targeted to start by the end of 2019. The CEO said he anticipates the second phase following on quickly after that. 'We will be pushing forward with it now. There are a lot of environmental considerations so it's a complex development because of that but we are confident it will stay on track'.

Cllr. David Hynes suggested that the industrial history of the former Wexford Electronix site should be commemmorated within the project and was told by the CEO that they were thinking of something that would reflect the original Star Ironworks and the manufacturing heritage of the area.

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