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The Waterford Crystal site as it stands today. The Journal/Eoghan Dalton

Approval granted for university to buy 20 acres on former Waterford Crystal site

The site has been mooted for use as student accommodation and to expand the university’s footprint in recent years.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Mar 2023

THE GOVERNMENT HAS approved the purchase of 20 acres at the former Waterford Crystal site for South East Technological University (SETU)

Masterful glasswork was crafted in the factory for decades until the plant ceased operating in 2009 resulting in the loss of almost 500 jobs, with recent years seeing it mooted for the nearby college to use for expansion, including for new student accommodation.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has now confirmed that approval has been given for SETU to purchase 20.3 acres of the 37-acre site, in what he said was a “new dawn” for the troubled area.

The rest of the site will remain in the ownership of local builders Noel Frisby Construction, who bought the site in 2013.

The cost of the deal has not been confirmed but the minister’s statement said the 20.3 acres represented the “entirety of what was offered” to SETU as part of the negotiations.

Harris said it was a significant milestone for the university, which was only established last year following a merger between Institute of Technology Carlow and Waterford IT, with campuses in Carlow, Waterford, Wexford, and Wicklow.

“This is a major moment in the development of SETU. The purchase of the site will allow SETU expand and grow, and crucially embed in the city of Waterford,” Harris said.

“We know the history of this site. Once a bustling site of business and tourism, the site has been largely derelict since the closure of Waterford Crystal over 14 years ago.”

The purchase of the brownfield site will allow SETU to cater for future student growth, address the current shortfall in space requirements and allow the TU to be a driver of economic and social development in Waterford, the department said.

Last October saw the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sanction final negotiations to take place between SETU and the developer.

The President of SETU Professor Veronica Campbell warmly welcomed the announcement.

Professor Campbell said: “I would like to thank Minister Harris for his support of our collective vision and for providing the first phase of funding to allow that vision become a reality.

“Our work to realise a University-Enterprise Quarter on the Waterford Crystal site will begin now in earnest and we look forward to developing this vision with all of our stakeholders and regional partners.

“As a university embedded in our region our ambition is to bring together academia, research, industry and our communities to create a hub of knowledge, learning, enterprise, innovation and creativity.”

Fine Gael senator John Cummins said the site would “future proof” the growth of the new university in the city, while providing an “enormous boost” to locals as a “site which once employed thousands of people will be repurposed to educate and accommodate the next generation of workers and industry”.

Cummins added thanks to “Mr Frisby for his willingness to engage in the process and reach agreement with SETU for the benefit of Waterford and the entire region”.

He said: “The fact that a portion of the site will remain in private ownership gives the flexibility to be able to deliver building solutions in a way that may not be possible on state-owned land and this could prove very useful in creating that mix of industry, education and research.”

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