Tuesday, 18th September 2018
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Michael Garland,

bizBoost Chair,

Waterford Business Group "Fingers, toes and everything else crossed!"

With much pomp and ceremony, the National

Development Plan (NDP) was unveiled last Friday. Launched in Sligo, after an out-of-town cabinet meeting, in front of the usual media suspects, Leo’s future plans for the Island of Ireland, would be the defining document of his first term in office - his Guggenheim.

It certainly is a meaty document, running to over 100 pages, available to download from official and unofficial sources. I managed to download my copy from http://www.per.gov.ie and a quick scan through all 109 pages, had me thinking "Just what’s in there for Waterford?"

Social media, national and local press, captured the main headlines surrounding Waterford’s biggest game changer in years. The North Quays’ regeneration - our Renaissance. The demolition of all the derelict buildings is nearly complete and our circa €60,000,000 would be there, in bold, in black and white, headlining a page inside the NDP encyclopaedia.

Having furiously searched my downloaded PDF, I eventually found the reference to our first ever Strategic Development Zone. Low and behold there it was, buried in the bottom right hand corner of page 36. No wee emojis of clapping hands or smiling faces. Just one bullet point mentioning "The Waterford North Quays SDZ regeneration project".

In truth, I was all excited. Surely it was not too much to expect to see in print, reference to the sixty million we have been waiting for, far, far too long now? Alas, there was no mention of this money. So I back tracked and read the paragraph that preceded the bullet points.

The money Waterford needs so desperately, would be part of a "New Regeneration and Development Fund Initiative". There it was as clear as day. "There are a number of examples of urban redevelopment projects that are already in train and that have the potential to benefit from the new Fund, for example:...."

"Potential to benefit" are the very words that jump out at you. Clearly implying that Waterford has an opportunity to profit from this Fund. It does not categorically state that Waterford will get its justifiable millions.

It looks like there are a few more hoops and rings to jump through. There will no doubt be all manner of checks and balances to take place, before taxpayers’ money is spent. Now, that’s a very good thing - Government must ensure that projects are worthwhile, justifiable and will show a significant return on investment. Confirmation before Pascal is allowed to loosen his purse strings. Due diligence has to take place, to guarantee the Irish public are getting value for money.

I have to confess that along with many others, I thought that the NDP was now merely a formality, before the BIG announcement. I was sure that we had already crossed and dotted far too many t’s and i’s. Alas, it now appears that we will have to wait a wee bit longer before this project reaches the finishing line. Others are also suggesting that more has to be done, before the starting gun is fired and the builders move in.

We have been told that the private investment, to support the North Quays is upwards of €300,000,000. That, on anyone’s abacus, gives a massive economic impact, for a relatively small Government outlay. With this in mind, you can’t help but wonder why the NDP was not more committed in supporting Waterford’s SDZ?

I do hope that it is only a matter of weeks and NOT months, before the announcement of funding is orchestrated. When this day does arrive, I wonder just how many will be claiming the credit?

Reading more of the NDP, it is difficult to comprehend why Waterford features so infrequently. The very City that has been earmarked to double its population, gets significantly fewer mentions than many others. In fact, outside of the North Quays, the Technological University carrot or stick and some possible airport funding, there’s not a great deal to shout about. You have to wonder just what was Waterford Inc’s, input into this book of "Ifs, buts and maybes".

Maybe I am getting sceptical in my old age? Or maybe, just maybe, my pragmatic Scottish genes, dislike circumvention.

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