Tramore’s Grand Hotel saga looks set to rumble on for at least another two months as the case was again adjourned to November at Waterford District Court yesterday.
The hotel has been unoccupied and in a derelict state since 2014, with Waterford City & County Council issuing a derelict sites notice in 2018 against the owner Guoqing Wu.
Local independent councillor, Joe Conway, has been present at all court proceedings and has spoken upon the impact that the dereliction has had upon the surrounding area.
He says the can has been kicked down the road yet again, and was frustrated by proceedings.
“It’s really more of the same. The matter came up before the judge in Waterford District Court this morning. It was just another case of prevarication and adjournment. The story that came back through the solicitors for the Council related to the fact that the owner, Mr. Wu, wanted another six weeks to do the work that needs to be done to bring the hotel up to standard. That wasn’t forthcoming and then judge said yeah, we’ll adjourn it again until the sitting in November. So it’s basically as you were, no progress. Even though he has had since the beginning of July, the last sitting, all through the summer, to make progress on it - nothing has happened. The 12,000 people in Tramore and all the visitors are testament to the state of it and the poor effect it’s having on the economic viability of the town.”
Workmen appeared on the site on Tuesday December 15th last and when locals approached them to find out what was going on, they were told the hotel is not for sale. Cllr. Eamon Quinlan (Fianna Fáil) spoke at the Metropolitan District Meeting of Waterford City & County Council later that evening, and told the councillors that he was concerned that the owners were simply doing enough work to frustrate the local authority’s pursuit of a dereliction notice. Cllr. Jim Griffin of Sinn Fein also noted at the meeting that the workers on site were not following health and safety guidelines.
When consulted on the matter, Senior Planner Liam McGree noted that the owners of the hotel had met with council officials on site earlier that week, and a schedule of works had been agreed.
“We had some difficulty in making contact with the owners and serving them with notices but they have now made contact. We have since met them on site and a schedule of works has been agreed between themselves and the Council. We’re satisfied that they are going to address the said issue of dereliction.”
Cllr. Quinlan queried as to what the schedule of works directly entailed, and Mr. McGree responded that should the building be renovated to the extent that it no longer had a negative impact on surrounding businesses, then it could no longer be deemed derelict.
Earlier that month, the matter was first analysed in court proceedings and Cllr. Joe Conway was among those to speak. Afterward, he commented that the Council was making ground on serving the dereliction notice and a resultant compulsory purchase order, but that has since changed.
“There’s a Chinese expression - fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It’s just the same old prevarication. Meanwhile, the place gets uglier and more sordid and it’s depressing people. It’s definitely having a bad effect on the viability of the town. So many other businesses are trying their best to make the place a desirable location, and this thing is left right smack bang in the centre to really desecrate a beautiful area.”
Cllr. Conway believes that when the matter is discussed again in November, it will be the same old scenario. He says Waterford Council don’t have the appetite to fight their corner.
“Kicking the can down the road doesn’t even adequately describe it, because it’s just so frustrating - what’s being done. I have no doubt that when we go back in in November, he’ll (Mr. Wu) be looking for another two or three months. It’s just not addressed and the Council don’t appear to have the appetite to get stuck into him and push through the enforcement.”
Cllr. Conway believes that a refurbished and thriving Grand Hotel would be an unparalleled asset for the town of Tramore, admitting that the hotel offering in the area is ‘not great’.
“The hotel situation in Tramore is not great. We have one fine A-list establishment, and then after that, there’s nothing. You see the likes of Killarney, quality is key in terms of bringing in visitors.”
The Grand Hotel saga has in a sense set somewhat of a dangerous precedent, as it might lead some people to believe that they can allow their building to fall victim to dereliction, and never suffer any consequences.
“Dereliction isn’t an issue that we have done particularly well on in Waterford. Certainly, in the nearly two decades that I have been a councillor, I think it’s the issue that I complain most about. It’s historical really. A lot of the dereliction has just been left there and the Derelict Sites Act and the Derelict Sites Register are treated with soft regulation. I think unless you do something, the situation just goes on and on and the towns suffer. I really don’t think that there is a viable solution in the case of the Grand Hotel, with the current owners. We’re going to have to look at the bigger picture down the road as a Council. I can’t honestly see the present owner engaging and bringing the hotel up to the standard that we would expect in Tramore.”