By Pádraig Hoare
Cork’s growth will be threatened unless the Government’s implements plans for the region in the €116bn national development plan as a matter of priority, according to business group Ibec. It said a directly-elected mayor for the city would assist in bringing the plans for the region to fruition.
Under the plan, the M20 motorway between Cork and Limerick has been earmarked as an essential driver for economic growth for the Cork region.
However, business and political figures have said the Northern Ring Road is also essential to open up the northside of the city, as is the upgrade of the traffic blackspot at the Dunkettle interchange on the outskirts of the city centre.
The go-ahead was given for the eastern end of the Northern Ring Road in the National Development Plan.
Ibec Cork regional president James Winters said: “Plans are in place to maximise the potential of Cork with ambitious growth figures and capital expenditure. We welcome measures in Project Ireland 2040 aimed at addressing infrastructure gaps and achieving smart and compact growth. How quickly we implement these measures will be crucial.”
He said the N28 to Ringaskiddy and the N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom were also essential.
“This investment will improve accessibility, eliminate daily congestion challenges and help improve the attractiveness of our city to investors and mobile talent,” said Mr Winters.
Cork Business Association president Philip Gillivan said the local authorities and stakeholders in Cork had to play their part.
“There is a lot of competition for other regions for the funding in the National Development Plan and we cannot risk missing out by not having our ducks in a row,” he said.
Mr Gillivan has previously said the M20 motorway, Northern Ring Road and Dunkettle upgrade need to be done together if they are to solve the city’s gridlock and open up the city’s northside for economic growth.
Ibec said that a directly-elected mayor of Cork would provide fresh impetus for the plans to be delivered.
A plebiscite asking voters in both cities their views is set to take place this year, meaning a mayoral election could take place in May 2019 to coincide with local elections.
“The remit that a directly- elected mayor will have will be crucial, as they will co-ordinate and drive policies to make Cork more liveable. This is vital to drive Cork’s growth and for better urban governance. It is crucially important that we grasp this opportunity for enhanced leadership and accountability when it comes around,” Mr Winters said.