Dún Laoghaire ferry terminal, which has lain idle for seven years, will be leased by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council as a “co-worker, incubator space” opening later this year.
The deal, which will see the publicly-owned building leased to Quartermaster Innovations Ltd for at least 13 years, was described on Monday night as a “shot in the arm” for the town and “privatisation beyond belief”.
Councillors voted, with 35 in favour and five against, for the disposal of the terminal building to the company established by Hilary Haydon, an accountant and former president of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Chamber of Commerce, specifically for this project. It will pay rent to the council of €400,000 per year, starting in year two.
Questions were raised about whether Mr Haydon had sufficient track record to develop the project, but Owen Laverty, head of enterprise with the council said he had experience, had invested several million euro in the project and would have tenants in by the third quarter of this year. He described the project as “very exciting” repeatedly.
“We know he has a strong interest in supporting very early stage companies,” said Mr Laverty. There was a dearth of office space in Dún Laoghaire, compared to that available elsewhere in the county, such as Blackrock and Dundrum, which meant lower footfall for local businesses.
“There is a large opportunity here for those spaces because of the population and mix of business owners. We do know the availability of [office] space is declining and the demand is there.”
Cllr Melisa Halpin (People Before Profit) tabling a motion to have a vote on the disposal deferred for ten days, said it was “fundamentally wrong that a whole section of the centre of our harbour is being disposed of to a for-profit company without any public consultation”.
The Quartermaster Innovation project was essentially the same plan the Harbour Company, which had owned the building until 2015, had, she said.
“We need economic plans in the harbour yes, but we shouldn’t be tied to the one economic plan that the Harbour Company came up with seven years ago ... Planning without public consultation is not sustainable planning.”
Cllr Dave Quin, (Social Democrats), describing the plan as “extremely concerning” said: “I fully agree with having an incubator co-working space in the building. However to provide that at such a reduced level of charge for what will be a significant gain and profit to the proposer is to my mind privatisation beyond belief in terms of the excessive profits that will arise”.
Cllr Barry Saul (Fine Gael), said: “Dún Laoghaire has faced a crisis for many years with people holding Dún Laoghaire back ... We need income, we need jobs, we need footfall, we need rates and we need a shot in the arm for Dun Laoghaire”.
Following the council meeting, former minister for education and councillor Mary Hanafin (Fianna Fáil) was elected Cathaoirleach of the council.