E-bike, tourism, food and glamping among ideas put forward
Boosting business in New Ross is at the heart of the business plan for the greenway, which has attracted 40 business ideas so far.
Business Development Officer, Wexford town man Alan Fitzhenry said the emphasis is on regenerating New Ross town is top of the list of priorities, followed by rural areas along the route.
14 months into the role, he said there are many people looking at capitalising on the potential of the almost 24km greenway – stretching from the Red Bridge to Ferrybank in Waterford.
He said New Ross is coming on ‘leaps and bounds’ as a town, highlighting the one big concern, vacancy rates of commercial properties.
“I am of the opinion that it would be better to see life come back to the town and its environs. Slieverue and Glenmore are 1km or more from the route and Kilkenny council are doing an options report on how to maximise the greenway benefit to both villages.”
He said the response from existing and prospective business people has been very strong.
“I am at just over 40 different people who have engaged with me. These are 40 different business ideas but obviously there is a lot of repetition in the types of those ideas. There is bike hire – both electric and hybrid bikes. We're seeing great interest in food and coffee. We’ve seen a good bit of interest in accommodation and glamping and then a variety of other businesses outside of that.”
Due to the commercial sensitivity surrounding the prospective businesses, Mr Fitzhenry said he can’t go into any specific detail.
He said one of these is a visitor attraction, heritage related business.
"There are some with a retail focus; something that would set up in town anyway but because the greenway is coming they are very much looking at speeding this up because a lot of their focus may be on the tourism trade. So they would need that extra footfall for it to be viable. There is quite a lot of what you’d expect to see but a lot of bits and bobs extra that offer variety.”
The majority of the businesses are looking to set up in New Ross.
"The bulk of the interest is so far, in the initial days, is in New Ross. Half of those 40 plus people are in and around the New Ross area. They are looking at the quay and at any vacant units in the town and in Rosbercon.”
One site is already being developed at the corner site at the bottom of Rosbercon Hill, a project Mr Fitzhenry was consulted on.
“There is potential near the trailhead car park as some of those have been vacant for a very, very long time. The whole point of the greenway is linking it into the urban area and making it very much part of the urban area.
"Similar to Dungarvan – if you look at how Dungarvan has progressed with the Waterford Greenway; it’s worked miracles down there and there is no reason to suggest it won’t work similar miracles here. New Ross has so such to offer and when the tourists come let’s hope that we’re in a great place to facilitate them.”
The businesses he has engaged with are a mixture of existing business people with a whole new idea they want to look at or an add on to their existing business, right through to complete start-ups who have never owned a business before.
Mr Fitzhenry said his role is to facilitate and signpost grants to people.
"I’m linking them into the Leader project or LEO. Initially it could be just information sharing. There is no point in opening a business that is going to be reliant on a greenway when the greenway isn’t open.”
He said there is local and political pressure to see some sections open early, adding that some businesses will be able to open quickly like a Waterford based bike hire enterprise, while others will require more lead in time.
Dealing with three different county councils, Mr Fitzhenry is the conduit between business owners and the local authorities.
"I try to connect people with a business unit owner to see if something can happen. There has been brilliant support from all the councils and all of the councillors. Councillors in all of the districts have been very proactive in introducing people to me.”
He said people should be incredibly enthusiastic about the greenway and very proud of everyone involved in making it happen.
"We’d urge people to engage with this. Obviously there is a huge emphasis on tourism in New Ross from the murals to the High Hill, to the Murphy Norman centre, to the pedestrianisation of Quay Street and Integer planning to build and expand; that’s people moving to an area. That’s people who are looking at what an area has for them.”
Dwell time for tourists will also be improved, with many more activities than a decade ago, including the Barrow Princess river cruiser which offers a return journey from Waterford on the Barrow.
"That will all feed into local job creation. Also the repeat visitors to a greenway are local people and we expect to see a huge amount of use. It’s on your doorstep; it's safe; you feel like the children can cycle on ahead of you. So you have got this amazing amenity right on your doorstep.
"As we get close to opening we will be engaging with all of the local community groups because we want to see this come to life and stay busy.”
He said people will travel from all over Ireland to use the greenway.
"All of the statistics point to how good this will be for the area. Our focus at Wexford County Council is on delivering it and growing the economic and community benefits around that.”
Mr Fitzhenry said people will be encouraged to eat in New Ross.
"The next spot is 6kms out at the Glenmore car park. There will be expressions of interest to Kilkenny County Council. There is a lot already in New Ross and we want them to go into New Ross and there are services at the Waterford end.”
Drawing a comparison with the Waterford Greenway he said the emphasis there was also on developing services in the towns along the route and afterwards other more remote locations were developed.
He said the greenway will eventually run into Waterford City as far as the North Quays and Clock Tower, adding to the economic growth potential.