Tuesday, October 08, 2019

“GIVEN the unique urban composition of the South East and the objective to enable Waterford City to become a regional city of scale, an agreed development strategy is required to build Waterford’s population and employment base substantially while enabling surrounding urban centres to perform complementary roles.” So says the Government’s oft-trumpeted National Planning Framework (NPF).

However, the amended Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) which Darren Skelton reports on in this week’s lead story, appears to wildly contradict the ambitions detailed by the Government as spelled out in the NPF. So which document shall be the one which takes flight?

That the RSES document makes no reference to Waterford City in the context of a Technological University of the South East (TUSE) while specifying the TUSE in the chapters dedicated to Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny is decidedly odd.

That only one of the 37 recommendations made by WIT to the revised document has been included in the latest draft is bewildering. And that the North Quays project is labelled as an “innovation centre” represents a spectacular downgrade for the ambitious proposal.

Waterford’s economic, civic, academic, medical and political stakeholders have never sought special status. The designation of Waterford city as the region’s capital can hardly be described as an outlandish pursuit. Seeking no more than our fair share in the interests of genuine, sustainable regional development has never been too demanding or excessive a request either.

Speaking in this city in July 2017, Leo Varadkar promised that “Waterford will not be neglected or forgotten” during his term as Taoiseach. The time has surely come for those words to be delivered upon. Waterford must be given regional primacy. The NPF must supersede the underwhelming and unsatisfactory RSES.


Focus Ireland’s sterling service

On Friday last, Focus Ireland officially marked the €1.2 million retrofitting of its 68 unit Grange Cohan development, which will ensure its residents have a more comfortable and energy-efficient winter.

Since 2000, the housing charity has provided a roof over the heads of many of our community’s most vulnerable members, firstly at Grange Cohan and additionally in Dungarvan where it has 21 long-term supportive units.

It’s also established a ‘Housing First For Youth’ programme which accounts for a further 25 units across the city, a stepping stone housing initiative which assists younger people to find long term accommodation.

“Grange Cohan has been the template for a lot of projects we’ve undertaken elsewhere in the South East,” said Regional Manager David Niblock.

Thanks to the relationships Focus has established with local authorities in Waterford and our neighbouring counties, it’s also been easier to identify those in danger of falling between support gaps, particularly among young adults about to leave foster care.

As Focus Ireland resident ‘Declan’ tells us in an interview on page 14, the staff at Grange Cohan have the power to transform lives. He should know.

“When they talk to you, they talk with you, there’s no-one talking down to you,” he said. “These are genuine people. They’re not picking at any scab you might have. They give you the ointment for it.”

Focus Ireland has done this city and State some service. And given the ongoing crisis in homelessness, with 112 adults in Waterford registered in emergency accommodation by the end of August, it’s clear that its services shall be called upon for quite some time to come.

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