FALCON Real Estate Development has confirmed in writing, to Waterford City & County Council, that they will submit their planning application for the North Quays development before the end of November.
This follows a number of announcements in the past 12 months, when the planning was publicly announced for March, July and ‘by the end of October’ – albeit by the Council and not the developers themselves. This is the first time that Falcon Real Estate has publicly announced a date for the planning submission.
In a letter to Waterford City & County Councillors last week, Chief Executive Michael Walsh explained the delay.
“For the purposes of clarity, Falcon Real Estate have been undertaking a full review of the detail of the North Quays development, it being imperative that the planning application is consistent with feedback from the market place, and appropriately aligned to meet market demand,” Mr Walsh said. “Market engagement and design reviews have been happening with a number of months now and the company has confirmed in writing that a planning application will be lodged by the end of November subsequent to the completion of some design alterations and additional work on Environmental Impact Assessment to meet the Planning Authority’s requirements.”
Speculation has been rife in recent months that the project was being downscaled, in particular its retail elements.
However, a source inside the development told the Waterford News & Star that the retail end of the project – 35 per cent of which was entertainment/food/beverage – wasn’t changing.
Fears that the Michael Street Shopping Centre was also going to get dropped have been allayed by Falcon themselves who confirmed to the Waterford News & Star that it was still very much “part of the development”.
Commenting on speculation around Irish Rail, the NTA and the Department of Transport’s involvement with the development, Michael Walsh said that there has been “ongoing detailed meetings with Irish Rail (joint Steering Groups and Technical Groups are in place meeting generally monthly) and the NTA in respect of all the projects and briefing meetings with the Department of Transport”.
“All of the transport bodies have been fully supportive of the principles of what we are trying to achieve in respect of sustainable transport and the future core access to our City Centre and have been nothing other than helpful in the overall process,” the Chief Executive said.
“It has also been equally clear from our very earliest discussions that the proposed integrated transport hub and the train station element is not and could not be included in the current priority capital programme for rail works, given the overwhelming demand a) for additional capacity provision in the form of rolling stock and b) for track improvements to transform journey times. Patently this Council would be supportive of enhanced capacity and improved journey times on the network.”
Mr Walsh stated that this was the “very reason” why the Council had been seeking funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) and not via other sources.
“This was the very logic that led to the creation of the URDF in the first instance – i.e. that a fund be created to facilitate the development of infrastructure necessary to generate redevelopment that wouldn’t ordinarily be funded from ‘normal’ capital programmes,” Mr Walsh said.
“It is as such that we are progressing the application under the URDF and our application has been approved for multi-annual funding with an initial tranche of €6 Million for the current year. We are satisfied that there is goodwill and that there will be support of real substance in respect of our application and we are currently engaged with the URDF team in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government around the details of this support and are forwarding further data and analysis following feedback from the team. It is important to stress that despite interpretation arising from answers to questions by the Minister in the Oireachtas that we do not have to make any other applications and we will be pushing for a formal answer before year’s end.”
As part of their public statement on the development, Falcon Real Estate Development added that the project marked a “major economic boost for Waterford and the South East Region of Ireland.
“The total estimated investment is estimated to be €350 million in the development, phased over three to five years. 2,300 full-time roles will be created during the development of the new district, with an additional 4,500 indirect jobs,” a spokesperson for Falcon Real Estate said.
“The planned completed integration of the scheme with the existing urban centre of the City will confirm Waterford as the Gateway City of the South East Region, increasing regional and national visitation, tourism and will serve to reverse regional economic leakage. Combined with the forecasted 2040 population growth of 181,000 people for the South East, the retail market size in the South East is expected to grow from €3.49 billion in 2015 to €6.30 billion in 2025.”
Waterford Chamber of Commerce President Gerald Hurley welcomed the announcement, saying that it was encouraging that speculation and uncertainty the development could now be “put to bed and we can move forward”.
“We have always believed the North Quays development will be the catalyst for growth, particularly in terms of delivering on Project Ireland 2040,” said Mr Hurley.
“This is a €350 million investment which will create 2,300 full time roles with an additional 4,500 indirect jobs. It will cement Waterford’s position as Capital of the South East and the driver of economic growth and we are hopeful that there will be no further delays in the planning process, so we start date of quarter four of 2020 can be guaranteed.”