Thursday 20 June 2019

D'Arcy slams council for 'lack of ambition'

Minister Michael D’Arcy with designer Harry Crosbie outside the Market House building
Minister Michael D’Arcy with designer Harry Crosbie outside the Market House building

Cathy Lee

Minister Michael D'Arcy has said that he is 'astonished by the staggering lack of ambition' following the decision made by a majority of councillors of Gorey Municipal District to move on from the ambitious plans by designer Harry Crosbie for the Market House, and instead go back to the drawing board with the original plan in mind, that was agreed under Public Realm in 2012.

The issue came up at the April meeting of Gorey Municipal District, where all councillors, except for Cllr Anthony Donohoe, voted in favour of continuing the project with the original plan.

'This project should have been delivered by now, there's money to design, the pot is now open on a really ambitious project, but the plans that are there from 2012 have no ambition, and they will generate no wealth and no employment opportunities for the region,' said Minister D'Arcy.

'They are effectively saying that they don't want it and I think they are only council in Ireland who are turning down money for development - this shows a lack of ambition,' he said.

In February, it was announced that €429,145 was to be made available to Wexford County Council as part of the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

'I am calling on the Chief Executive of Wexford County Council to intervene here and take over this project,' he added.

He said that he was taking this step because, in his view, there isn't ambition from the members who represent Gorey, and there isn't ambition by the Wexford County Council staff in Gorey.

Amanda Byrne, District Manager of Gorey Municipal District, said that going forward, the council will progress a detailed design for the restoration of the Market House building and the adjoining vacant lands to the rear in accordance with the Gorey Public Realm Plan.

'The previous proposal is now off the table, as the individual concerned has withdrawn their bid,' she said.

'The development of detailed design and planning will take place in the coming months,' she confirmed.

She said that the original concept, prepared as part of the Public Realm plan, was originally 'very positively received' and that the funds are there to progress that now.

This project, spearheaded by Wexford County Council, is a redevelopment with the aim to renovate the disused Market House in Gorey and re-purpose, developing it as a multi-purpose arts, heritage and performance community space.

Developer Harry Crosbie, involved with the design process for the 'Vicar Street South' venue, was told in March that his 'services were no longer required', after he had been working with Wexford County Council for four years.

'It's a backward step, we have €429,145 approved to progress with an ambitious plan and I don't know why we're walking away from that plan so easily' said Cllr Anthony Donohoe.

'I have no doubt that if we built something impressive and put it there at the Market House that we'd find an operator. If you had a superb facility that is central with facilities like parking spaces and concrete plans, people would be fighting to get in,' said Cllr Donohoe.

'I don't see why we're letting this go after a few months over not having an operator, because if that was really the case we wouldn't have the Hatch Lab, as we built that blind. Either we're going to be an ambitious town going forward, or we're not going to progress, with letting go of great projects such as these,' concluded Cllr Donohoe.

'The Hatch Lab was something very different, the technology sector is not as specialist as this. There are a limited number of people or companies in Ireland who could occupy something of this scale in the industry of arts and culture,' said Amanda Byrne in response to Cllr Donohoe's remarks.

'It's a case that we all want to see the venue developing, but there has to be a serious and substantial proposal on the table, with money behind it but I don't want to see a situation where the Market House is just sitting there, not being utilised,' said Cllr Malcolm Byrne.

Cllr Donohoe agreed with Michael D'Arcy TD, that there appears to be a lack of ambition for Gorey, and he would suggest that expressions of interest from the public on this are sent to directly to the Gorey Municipal District, to reopen the dialogue here in the search for an operator.

Gorey Guardian