THERE was a setback for the future of a brand new outdoor performance space planned for Wexford’s quayfront after local councillors refused to sign off on the project without a proper discussion around its location.
The original touted location for the impressive glass-backed "pavilion stage area” had been near the Crescent, but it later emerged that it would have to be moved further down the quay due to environmental concerns. The location that was settled upon was on the quay in the area opposite South East Radio and “where the coffee shops etc are now”.
Mr James Lavin from the Planning Department sought the approval of the members to move forward with the project at the September meeting of the council, but it quickly became clear that there were lingering doubts.
"I was fully in support of the pavilion stage when it was first brought before us,” Cllr George Lawlor said. “I would say I’m holding off on my support at this location for the time being as I don’t know how much of an impact it will have on our quayfront. I’d like to stand on the quay and see the exact location and the impact that the project would have. I think we should all visit the site and see what this is going to be as it could have quite an impact.”
Cllr John Hegarty took a similar line. “I’d like to get a proper picture in my head of what this is going to look like,” he said. “We need to be sure that it fits in with what’s there and that it doesn't impact any future developments. It’s a good project, but we need to be sure that we won’t look back in five years time and regret the location.”
Cllr Leonard Kelly agreed with this while Cllr Maura Bell insisted that the new performance space could not negatively impact any of the current festivals taking place on the quay which have been so successful. Cllr Davy Hynes noted that the quay was also a working dock and Cllr Tom Forde seconded Cllr Lawlor’s call for a site visit.
Mr Lavin seemed somewhat disappointed by the members’ reluctance to sign off on the project.
"The reason it was moved from the original location was as a result of it having EU designation as a Special Protection Area,” he said. “If we don’t go this route, we could still be sitting here in a few years time.”
Mayor Garry Laffan didn't accept this and asked: “Will another month really make that much difference to the project?"
Cllr Lawlor meanwhile said: “The whole quay is a special protection area. How come we can go ahead with a €120m investment in Trinity Wharf in the same area, but we can't put a €250,000 stage there?”
Sitting in for Director of Services Tony Larkin, Liz Hore said that a briefing and site visit would be organised for the members to reassure them on the proposed location.
Meanwhile, the members were perfectly happy to sign off on plans to place a retractable roof over Monck Street. All of them noted that it was going to be a major asset to the town, while Cllr Maura Bell stressed that “this will benefit not just the night time economy, but the day time economy too. It's not just going to be a ‘mini-Templebar’ as some have dubbed it.”