Residents in the area around Wexford County Council's ambitious Trinity Wharf development, have made a detailed submission to An Bord Pleanála, outlining their concerns about its potential impact on their local community.
A list of observations was lodged yesterday (Monday) with An Bord Pleanála which is currently considering a planning application from the council for a new urban quarter including a six-storey 120-bedroom hotel, six-storey car park with spaces for 462 cars, a five-storey residential building of 58 apartments, three five-storey office buildings, a two-storey cultural/performance centre, a restaurant/cafe, a public plaza, a 64-berth floating marina and new sea wall around the site.
The planned scheme on the old Wexford Electronix site represents the single biggest property development promoted by the County Council in the centre of Wexford town.
The local authority was recently allocated €2 million under the Government's Urban Regeneration and Development Fund to carry out site development and infrastructural works while the offices and commercial buildings will be constructed by public private partnership.
The project also allows for the widening of Trinity Street and a new entrance road into Trinity Wharf with an extra railway level crossing,
Residents from Trinity Street, Trinity Place, Emmet Place, Seaview Avenue, Fisher's Road, William Street and Parnell Street attended local meetings in the Faythe School to discuss the development and finalise submissions.
Householders have made several observations on the County Council plan, according to one of the organisers John Hayes who said the submissions deal with the impact that such a large scale development will have on the residential areas around it, both during and after construction. If approved by An Bord Pleanála, the Trinity Wharf urban renewal project would be expected to take several years to complete.
'We are very much pro development but development that is carried out in co-ordination with the community and that brings benefits to the community and adds amenity to the community and that's to the existing community and also the future community', said John.
Residents want an assurance that if the development is approved, that the disruption to the area during the lengthy construction phase, will be minimised.
'We are not against development per se. As one of the older residents put it - we are not going to push back against going forwards. But everyone should be given a say and everyone's voice should be heard'.
'The only way to do that officially, is to make observations on the planning application. That was the only way to do it, with the way the proposal was announced', he said.
An informal consultation meeting was held in the Talbot Hotel last September, followed by a period during which people could email submissions on the plan but there was never any direct attempt to seek out the opinions of residents in the immediate local area.
'I think it's about having integration', said John. 'It's very hard to be integrated with an office block. The question is how can that site be best used in a way that enhances the area and the town'.
One of the requests is for a green space to be provided on the site, for the benefit of the local community including children in the nearby Faythe school.
'Some people might say that this won't generate money but I think there has to be a balance between revenue generation and community', said John.
'Enhancing community is a function of the local authority. The local elections are coming up - county councils are elected by the people to work for the people. Surely there should be an input by the community where a a life-altering development is going to happen.'
He said that following local meetings organised by residents, he felt that people are now more informed about the potential impact of the project.
'If it was a private landowner and someone was proposing to build a huge development beside them, there would be concern.. This development will impact a whole community'.
'I think when something like this is plonked on people, it can feel like we don't have a say but we do and this is the way we are exercising it', said John.
'We want to ensure that it brings value to the community, not just in terms of having a load of buildings, and that there will be benefit to the community'.
John said he understood the council had to pay a €30,000 planning fee and he hoped the application was well made, as otherwise it was a waste of money and 'questions would have to be asked if it is refused'.
Labour councillor George Lawlor said he met with residents in the area and also accompanied them at a recent meeting with Council officials to discuss issues of concern.
'We had a very productive meeting during which the residents raised very legitimate concerns and I am confident that these concerns will be addressed satisfactorily by the designers', he said.
'There is a concern about a loss of parking close to the entrance and also about the expected disruption during the construction'.
'The residents were encouraged by officials to lodge observations so that the officials could be given direction in relation to altering the plans, to minimise the concerns. The officials took on board what the residents said.'