Sanction from Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sought to enable SETU to commence formal negotiation for site purchase
Waterford Fine Gael Senator John Cummins has described the progress which has been made on the purchase of the former Waterford Crystal site for use by the new South East Technological University as an ‘important milestone’. In a statement issued today he confirmed that Minister Simon Harris has sought sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which would allow him to issue SETU with approval to engage in a formal negotiation process with the vendor for an undisclosed figure.
Senator Cummins said “The government have been categoric in their commitment to expanding the footprint of the South East Technological University campus in Waterford city and I have had extensive dialogue with both the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Harris on this matter for a considerable period of time. I am glad to report today that Minister Harris has confirmed to me that he has ‘reserved funding capacity for such an expansion and this is a very clear and tangible sign of that priority and commitment’.”
Senator Cummins added “It is important that the public to understand the process that has been engaged in thus far. During 2021, an extensive process of procuring expertise, site identification, cost estimates and dialogue was carried out by the then Waterford Institute of Technology, which culminated in a robust business case being submitted to the Department of Higher Education in late December 2021. This business case laid out a number of options which were deemed suitable for the campus expansion, with a preferred option of the former Waterford Crystal site being identified. In early 2022, the Higher Education Authority were tasked with carrying out an independent valuation process of the site in line with government policy, with a view to purchasing the site. This process concluded some time ago and at a meeting on Friday 26th August 2022, a report was signed off, which was then sent to Minister Harris on September 1st 2022. This report is being acted on swiftly by Minister Harris, he has now sought approval from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to enable SETU to commence formal negotiations with the vendor.
He added “I certainly hope this approval can be received as quickly as possible from DPER and I am assured that there will be no delay in allowing SETU to proceed to formal negotiation once this is sanction is received. Unfortunately, a great deal of misinformation has been put out there in the public domain regarding this site purchase to suit a particular narrative. The reality is much work and progress has been made on this matter outside of the view of commentators or the public. As a result, a vacuum has existed which has been frustrating for me as a government politician because I could not demonstrate the progress which I knew was been made. The reality is, when the state is purchasing an asset, a clear process must be followed and the failure to do so could jeopardise the project which would serve nobody’s interests because the acquisition of this site is essential for the growth of our new university”.
Senator Cummins added “I believe we have reached an important milestone with today’s confirmation of ringfenced funding and the request for sanction to proceed with the formal negotiation process. I understand a robust valuation process has been undertaken which will stand up to the highest scrutiny. Obviously, a commercially sensitive process has be entered into from this point which we must all fully respect, however the ringfenced funding to make this acquisition happen is available. I am of the firm belief that the sooner the site is acquired, the sooner elements of the exciting masterplan can be progressed by SETU, not least in the area of student accommodation.
Senator Cummins concluded by saying “I want to thank the Tánaiste and Minister Harris for their continued support for this project. I cannot overstate the importance of this site from both a practical and symbolic perspective. Not only will it future proof the growth of the university in Waterford, it will also give an enormous lift to the people of Waterford to know that a site which once employed thousands of people will be repurposed to educate and accommodate the next generation of young workers.