Thursday 25 April 2019

Harry Crosbie's Market House vision lying in tatters

In shock move, council tell Harry Crosbie his 'services are no longer required', sounding a death knell for ambitious Vicar St South plan

Harry Crosbie
Harry Crosbie

Esther Hayden

Developer Harry Crosbie will no longer form part of any plans to build a multi-purpose arts and performance space in the old Market House.

The high-profile developer who has been working with Wexford County Council for the last four years to bring the project to fruition has been told by the council that his 'services were no longer required'.

Mr Crosbie said that when he rang the council in recent weeks to see about advancing the project on foot of funding of 429,145 from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF) he was told that the council didn't want his input.

'Four years ago I was asked by Wexford County Council if I had any ideas for Wexford because I have a holiday bungalow there.

'I came up with the idea of a Vicar Street South venue in the old Market House and did a huge amount of background work on the project. We determined that there was sufficient people in the catchment area to make it work with the catchment area being 50 miles in all directions.

'I advised them on the consolidation of the site out the back to make the venue work because the shape wasn't right and I advised them on what land to buy which they then CPO-ed

'I brought in the architect who had worked with me on the original Vicar Street, the Point and the Bord Gais theatre.

'We came up with an outline plan of how Vicar Street South would work and then we had a long, long delay because the council were waiting on EU funding and various things.

'About two weeks ago I heard that the first round of funding had been released and I rang the council to find out when we were going to start only to be told that they were going to do it in-house and my services were no longer required.

'They are going to get their own architect and draw up new plans.'

Harry said that his plans included the main auditorium, stage, private members club, bar, dressing rooms and toilets.

'We had a highly skilled design team working on this project and were fully committed to the project. We were also in contact with all the leading promoters. This is a highly specialised area and it can't be done by just anyone.'

Mr Crosbie said that as a result of the council insisting in bringing in its own architect he has withdrawn from the project.

'We have withdrawn from the process. We had a highly skilled design team working on this and it's not acceptable. We don't operate buildings we don't design so we are out of the project.

'I am disappointed. I put in a lot of effort, work and thought into this project. I am very fond of Wexford and I'm bitterly disappointed by this decision.'

Deputy Michael D'Arcy said he was worried about the viability of the project now that Harry Crosbie is no longer involved.

'I don't think it is a particularly clever move by the council. I still think it's a really strong concept for the Main Street and we need to ensure that it is operated by someone who can run it as a going concern. Without someone with knowledge and experience in that space like Harry Crosbie the concept isn't as strong.'

When asked if he was worried about the viability of the project without Mr Crosbie's involvement Deputy D'Arcy said 'Oh god, yeah'.

He said he hadn't been informed by the council that it intended to go at the project alone and added that the €430,000 in Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which will see the project progress needs to be 'well spent' adding 'we can't lose sight of the concept'.

Deputy D'Arcy said he didn't know the motivation behind the council's decision to cut Harry Crosbie out of the project despite having approached him some four years ago.

In a statement Wexford County Council said it is committed to the Market House project.

'In May 2018, Wexford County Council completed the planning process in relation to the re-development of Gorey Market House, which provides for the extension of the Market House to provide a multifunctional space, including a retail/exhibition/performance venue.

'On 14 February last, it was announced that funding of €429,145 is to be made available to Wexford County Council by the Department of Rural and Community Development towards the redevelopment of Gorey Market House as part of the Project Ireland 2040 Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF). The Council welcomes this grant aid, which will allow the project to proceed to the next stage, namely the production of detailed designs and tender documents for construction purposes.

'Wexford County Council is committed towards the development of this very exciting project, and in this regard has set aside the sum of €2 million towards the project's construction costs, which are estimated at €5.5 million. The Council hopes to be awarded further grant aid in respect of the remaining balance, and is optimistic in relation to such an application, given the scale and importance of the project and it's clear potential to significantly enhance the economy of Gorey Town and surrounding area.

'Wexford County Council has also invited expressions of interest from those wishing to enter into a concession contract to operate the venue following construction. No decision has been made in relation to this process, which is subject to the usual rules of public procurement and will be concluded once the full amount of project funding is confirmed and in place.'

However it failed to answer a number of questions put to it including: 'Why has the long standing plan to have Harry Crosbie involved in the project been abandoned especially in light of the fact that he was approached by the council and the experience he has with such venues?'

'Why didn't the council officially inform Harry Crosbie that his services were no longer required and instead he found out when he rang the council about progressing the plan in light of the RRDF funding?'

'Starting the project from scratch will delay the project significantly how long is this delay expected to be?'

'Funding of €429,145 was allocated to the Market House under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund some three weeks ago to develop a plan for the Market House. What is the council hoping to get done with this money, will it bring the project to design stage etc, and how will the rest of the project be funded?'

'In terms of funding will the council be dependent on EU funding on a piece meal basis meaning it may be several years before the project is actually realised?'

Gorey Guardian