Saturday, 22nd September 2018
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An American university has rejected a €13m plan from Waterford City and County Council to set up a campus in Dungarvan.

Two years ago, Mercyhurst University, in Erie, Pennsylvania, signed a memorandum of understanding with local council officials, authorising them to conduct a feasibility study for the venture.

The move to create a fully-fledged campus was championed by Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy, a graduate of Mercyhurst and the Government’s US Envoy, who said "the aspiration has always been to make Dungarvan a university town". However, the prime town centre site has since remained idle, as fears grew locally over the past year over the future of the university project. In a written response to a query from Waterford Senator Paudie Coffey, Waterford City and County Council confirmed that the Mercyhurst campus project has been significantly downgraded.

Director of Services for Corporate Affairs, Fearghal Reidy, said the council initially "developed up an original scheme with a value of circa €13m". However, according to Mr Reidy, Mercyhurst then "reviewed their original assumptions and advised that this is not an option." Waterford City and County Council recently prepared two significantly smaller options for Mercyhurst at the site, which were valued at €2.4m and €3.6m. These reduced investment options were presented to the President, Provost and a member of the Board of Mercyhurst University last month. "However, the council has confirmed that a response from the university has not yet been forthcoming. Senator Coffey expressed his disappointment at the setback and called on the council and the Office of Public Works to immediately develop a new strategic plan for the site.

The Waterford Fine Gael General Election candidate said: "There needs to be a far more ambitious approach to get the most value out of this prime town centre site for the people of Dungarvan. "The site, a legacy from Fianna Fail’s disastrous decentralisation plan, remains idle and it now appears that the grand plans for a university campus for the town will not be delivered. "I am calling for immediate engagement with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA to identify a client company in financial services sector to develop a high-end office space that will bring new jobs to Dungarvan. "This saga has dragged on for too long and it is now time to adopt a 'build it and they will come' approach so that the site's rich potential can finally be realised."

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