Waterford Crystal site owners appeal vacant sites inclusion

Almost 100 locations around country now earmarked for levies from 2019

The owners of the former Waterford Crystal factory site have said it is hard to comprehend why it was placed on the State's vacant sites register.

The plant in the south of Waterford City once employed more than 3,000 people and was a flagship industry for the area prior to its controversial closure in 2009.

The 36-acre site lay dormant for a number of years before being purchased for an estimated €3 million by Ibrook Ltd, a company owned by the locally based developer Noel Frisby and his partner, Stephanie Taheny.

Everything on the site has now been levelled apart from a boarded-up visitor centre and the shell of an old office block, and there are currently no permissions in place for its future development.


The vacant sites register, which allows local authorities to impose a levy on property owners who fail to develop prime housing land, came into force on January 1st last. The owners of sites on the register, which must be bigger than 0.05 of a hectare, excluding gardens, will be hit with a levy of 3 per cent of the site’s value from 2019.

By next June local authorities must compile a register of vacant sites, the majority of which must be “vacant or idle” for more than 12 months, be zoned for residential or regeneration purposes, and be in an area in need of housing.

Appeal documents

Mr Frisby has appealed the decision to place the Waterford Crystal site on the register. Appeal documents seen by The Irish Times say the site has 24-hour security monitoring and describe the decision to class the lands as derelict as "surprising".

The owners point out that groundwater testing has been ongoing in the area for the last four years at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, and that it was "not feasible" to commence development while the site was subject to a pollution control license linked to its former use.

The site of the former crystal plant is among 21 locations listed on Co Waterford's vacant sites register. It is considered to be prime development land given it is next to Waterford IT and near the city centre.

Local Fine Gael councillor John Cummins said the local authority took the decision to put the onus on developers and landowners to prove their property should not be included on the register.

“We’d obviously be anxious to see some movement in relation to a masterplan and an idea for the site given that it is such a prominent site and given that it has been in ownership for a number of years at this point,” he said of the Waterford Crystal site.


In the appeal documents, the owners say they are in negotiations with WIT about an extension of the campus on to the site in view of the institute’s aspirations to become a university. They say such a masterplan cannot be completed until those talks conclude.

Lands owned by Mr Frisby account for four of the entries on the register, more than any other single company or individual, and he has appealed all four listings to An Bord Pleanála.

Waterford and Donegal are the only two counties outside of Dublin to identify sites that could face the vacancy levy. The list for South Dublin County Council currently has seven entries, while Dublin City Council lists 64.

Waterford City has been among the areas hardest hit by the housing crisis, with rising rents and diminishing availability of homes contributing towards increasing numbers seeking the assistance of homeless services.

This week saw a flurry of appeals from vacant site owners in Dublin and Waterford in particular, and almost 30 have now been lodged with An Bord Pleanála. Decisions are expected to be issued from late this year.