A 320 acres landbank at Coolnamuck outside Carrick-on-Suir is to remain zoned for industrial development for the next six years despite the fact that developer Johnny Ronan hasn’t any plans to make a second attempt to develop a bio-science and technology park at the site.
Waterford Co. Council decided to retain the zoning of the landbank as industrial development in its new County Development Plan for 2011 to 2017 and doesn’t intend to revert the designation to agricultural during that time due to the recession.
The Co. Council’s Director of Planning & Environment Services Brian White said the Council viewed the landbank as a strategic site and felt it should remain zoned industrial in the longer term.
He said the Council had gone through its development plan and dezoned land in the county that was designated for housing development because there wasn’t any demand but it regarded land zoned for industrial development differently.
“One thing is certain, the difficulty of creating and attracting jobs and industry in the county remains. It’s still a big priority and I don’t see any reason to dezone the land when the potential is there,” he told The Nationalist.
The landbank is owned by the family of well known property developer Johnny Ronan of Treasury Holdings, who was among the high profile property developers to have loans transferred to NAMA.
Mr Ronan had put forward an ambitious plan before the property and economic crash to develop a multi-million euro bio-science and technology park with the potential to create between 2000 and 3000 jobs and it was reported he planned investing E10m in the project.
Tipperary and Waterford Co. Councils fully backed the proposal and granted permission to the first phase of the project that included the construction of a two lane road bridge over the River Suir and other road infrastructure.
But environment watchdog An Taisce and the National Roads Authority appealed the councils’ decision to An Bord Pleanala, which overturned the grant of permission in February, 2009.
At the time, Mr White, on behalf of Waterford Co. Council, voiced disappointment and frustration at the decision and pointed out it would be much more difficult to market the bioscience and technology park to prospective companies without the road infrastructure being in place in advance.
He pointed out at the time that the ball was in Mr Ronan’s court and it was up to him to find some way to address the reasons why An Bord Pleanala refused permission and submit a revised planning application for approval.
Over the past two years, no revised application has been received from Mr Ronan and a source close to him indicated he hasn’t any plans at the moment to try again to secure planning for the technology park project because he feels there isn’t any point in wasting a fortune on a new application that would probably be rejected again.
The sources said that Mr Ronan regarded An Bord Pleanala’s ruling on the planning application was nonsense.
Aside from the planning difficulties, the economic conditions are far from suitable for developing a technology park with the collapse in demand for industrial sites and the impact of the property crash on developers like Mr Ronan, who it was reported this week has sold his private jet as NAMA is heaping pressure on developers to alter their lifestyles.
Mr White said the Co. Council fully appreciated that the current economic climate was not conducive for the development of a bio-science and technology park at the moment and didn’t expect any immediate application in relation to the Coolnamuck landbank.