TD calls for broad application of Georgian scheme
A scheme to promote investment in the Georgian areas of Waterford and Limerick could boost business in both cities as long as it is not interpreted too rigidly, according to Waterford TD John Deasy.
He said the living city initiative in the Finance Bill currently being debated in the Dáil had the potential to promote the urban regeneration in Waterford as long as it was used imaginatively.
Two key issues to be teased out were the dates of the buildings to come under the scheme and the area in Waterford that would be covered.
Definition of Georgian
He said it was important to pin down exactly what was meant by “Georgian”, as that would be crucial in determining how much benefit Waterford could get from the scheme.
“If one goes strictly by date one is probably talking about the Georgian period ending in 1830, but we must make the provision as effective as possible,” he said.
Mr Deasy said Georgian-style architecture prevailed in Waterford right into the 1840s and, some would say, even well beyond that.
“It is important that we determine the definition of Georgian buildings and architecture in the two cities. Those who do that for a living do not believe Georgian architecture should be strictly determined by dates,” he said.
Mr Deasy said if a strict definition was applied, Waterford would not benefit greatly from the provision.
“Within a short period we will have a good idea of the footprint of Georgian and early Victorian houses. We must find out how many such houses there were, where they are and what they are now being used for,” he said.
Mr Deasy said he appreciated that deciding officials had to be conscious of whether the scheme would be approved at EU level and that any definition of Georgian-style buildings would have to be referenced by experts in the field.
He said the Minister for Finance recognised that many of the historic buildings in question would only be restored if help was available.
“In Waterford many of the buildings in question are in the city centre and form its historical core. There might be more than some believe.”
Mr Deasy said the difficulty was that many were not being used as originally intended. Many were vacant and, of the others, many were being rented to businesses.
“The scheme is substantial. Relief can be claimed at a rate of 10 per cent per year over 10 years against income,” he said.
Room for improvement
The provision also allowed for improvements, renovations and extensions, with the costs being written off against income tax if the building was owned and operated by the person running the business.
However, he also called for a tweaking of the provision to maximise the impact because the number of owner-operated retail outlets in the centre of Waterford was not high, with many of them rented out.