Monday 14 October 2019

Green light is given for €5m town centre renewal project

David Looby

A €5m plan to revitalise the town centre of New Ross has been given the green light.

The plan will see a new enterprise centre open in John Street, possibly as soon as this summer, along with the development of some landmark vacant buildings in the town centre.

The Barrack Lane and Michael Street areas have been targeted for urban regeneration and with the imminent closure of New Ross Fire Station and the availability of three large buildings: the ESB premises on Barrack Lane and St Joseph's and Michael Street boys schools, there are several options for Wexford county council to work on.

Councillors unanimously supported a motion by Cllr Michael Sheehan on Wednesday to develop a plan for the Barrack Lane area in the town centre. Cllr Sheehan said: 'The opportunity is there now for us to get the paperwork in order so we can make an application over the coming months and years for the Barrack Lane area which will change radically. The application would include housing, community, residential and cultural offerings.'

Among the plans for the area are a community centre for life-long learning, a FAB Lab, for which €80,000 in funding was announced in 2018, a refurbished library and mechanical and apprenticeship training centre.

The North Street/John Street area is to be developed into a modern, vibrant part of New Ross. A deal was agreed over recent days for the enterprise centre at the old grain store beside the former Docks Hotel. Cllr Sheehan described the large building being in 'pristine condition'.

'The acquisition is complete. We also have a design team drawing up plans for the High Hill and senior planners are looking into ways of addressing dereliction and vacancy in the town centre. We need to look at the whole town in terms of footfall.

'A total land use review is under way for New Ross. We have identified strategic buildings.'

He said the works will run into the millions of euros and will transform the town centre which has seen established businesses closing and new businesses opening over recent weeks.

The council's economic unit, property unit and special projects section are driving this. I have raised the need for these projects at the Special Policy committee meetings and with the council's economic department and am delighted they are being advanced. These projects will transform the town centre.'

According to a council economic report obtained by this newspaper the Enterprise Centre will cost around €1m. It will include business incubation spaces for new start-ups, training facilities including a FAB Lab, rooms and offices for collaboration with other agencies, particularly the new Technical University for the South East.

'As originally envisaged the centre would also provide an urban region opportunity. This area of New Ross would benefit significantly from regeneration and the council remains committed to this. Indeed the scale of the project has widened to include potential projects on the High Hill and other derelict properties in this area.'

The council has ultimately decided to separate the projects to focus on opening the enterprise centre as soon as possible, which will spark more interest in the town centre.

New Ross Standard