Government's urban redevelopment plan "a major slap in the face" for Waterford

Government's urban redevelopment plan 'a major slap in the face' for Waterford
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Culture Minister Josepha Madigan announce funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Government's €2bn urban redevelopment plan has been labelled "a major slap in the face" for key areas outside of Dublin after Waterford city received just €6m in funds to rejuvenate the area.

Fianna Fáil made the claim despite Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisting the funding war chest is for the whole of the country and is intended to ensure regional cities grow twice as fast as the capital.

Speaking at an event in inner city Dublin alongside Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Arts Minister Josepha Madigan and junior minister for skills John Halligan, Mr Varadkar said over the next two decades €2bn will be set aside for urban area regeneration.

The project, which is similar to the €1bn rural development fund launched last Friday, is focused on building refurbishment, public amenity planning, crime prevention, public transport and other matters.

Under the first grants provided under the plan, €550m will be made available to areas across the country until 2022, with some of the announcements confirmed today including:

  • €3.593m for various Cork city and county council plans including the Cork docklands and Grand Parade quarter regeneration projects
  • €3.45m for Wicklow county council for Bray public transport bridge
  • €3m for south Dublin county council Tallaght town centre redevelopment
  • €3.49m for Limerick city projects including a University of Limerick-linked "digital district" hub
  • and €5.6m for initiatives in Galway including a €2.9m cycling and walking project

However, despite the positive steps, gaps in the funding initiatives were criticised by opposition parties, with Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford Mary Butler claiming the €6m for Waterford instead of the €20m that was initially sought is "a major slap in the face" for the city:

"This is incredibly disappointing. The Government hyped up their support for these projects consistently, and now the city community has been once again left short-changed by this Government."

Ms Butler's concerns relate to the north quays rejuvenation scheme in Waterford which is expected to need more than €100m in total over the coming years if it is to go ahead as planned.

Local officials had hoped for an initial allocation of €20.1m to begin enabling works.

City and county council chief executive, Michael Walsh, said the city needs "greater certainty" around the Government's commitment to the project and that it "wouldn't be viable" for the private element of the regeneration to go ahead with the public infrastructure: "They [the investors] can go ahead independently but the reality is that, without real certainty that more infrastructure is contemporaneous, they probably couldn't.

They have a two-year or 2.5-year build, you would want to have the infrastructure coming on at the same time. It wouldn't be viable to open without it.

The €2bn urban regeneration fund has been earmarked by the Government as a central part of the controversial Project Ireland 2040 plan, which has faced repeated criticism since it was first announced in Spring.

While the project is intended to provide long-term commitments to rejuvenate large parts of the country, it has been greeted with suspicion by opposition parties due to claims it is being used as a pre-general election promotional tool by the Fine Gael-led coalition.

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