Sale of Waterford Crystal site to university edges closer as Simon Harris seeks approval from Government

Talks are under way to finalize the sale of the former Waterford Crystal factory for use by the South East Technological University (SETU).

It has been mooted as a site for student accommodation.

The Department of Public Expenditure has been engaged in discussions over the 36-acre site on the Cork Road where 1,000 people were once employed by the iconic glass company, according to Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

In a letter to local Fine Gael senator John Cummins, Mr. Harris said funding was set aside for the purchase.

Further Education Minister Simon Harris.  Picture: Damien Storan.
Further Education Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Damien Storan.

Although the minister did not disclose the name of the site in the letter, citing commercial sensitivity, he has previously welcomed that a business case was submitted by the university seeking approval to buy the site.

“I can confirm that last week, on September 1, 2022, my department received correspondence from the Higher Education Authority on the acquisition of a potential site in Waterford,” he told Mr. Cummins.

Whilst you will fully understand the importance of commercial sensitivity, we are now engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding a potential negotiation on the acquisition of a site and associated value-for-money parameters.”

Mr Harris said expanding the footprint of the university in Waterford was a priority for the government.

The site has been mooted for some time as a location for third-level in Waterford, with it expected to be used as student accommodation if the negotiations are successful.

Mr. Cummins said it was an “important milestone” as it meant confirmation of “ringfenced funding” for the purchase.

He continued: “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.”

Built in the early 1970s, the Waterford Crystal plant at Kilbarry was among the largest manufacturing units of its type in the world at the time.

It was bought by builder Noel Frisby in 2013, with close to €500,000 spent on the three-storey block to prepare it for redevelopment.

The site has been vacant since the plant ceased operating there in 2009.


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