Cork County on the Rise: Things are looking up for Cork

Over the next 20 years, 61,620 houses will be built in the county and 63,000 jobs created, says Tim Lucey

Cork County on the Rise: Things are looking up for Cork

CORK County Council, the geographically largest local authority in the country, and the second-largest, after Dublin city, in terms of population and operations, governs the most diverse combination of areas.

Project Ireland 2040, in response to our visionary Cork 2050 Strategy, has set out ambitious population and job targets for County Cork.

Our role is to ensure that we maximise investment in our economy by being a competitive, ambitious local authority and that our political, executive, and collaborative engagements deliver on these bold future goals.

To meet ambitious population growth targets for Cork County, an additional 61,620 homes will need to be built over the next two decades. That’s between 2,500 and 3,500 every year.

We will have to deliver 63,000 new jobs across the county in this same timeframe.

We have a proven track record in delivering on national targets. From 1996 to 2016, Cork County grew by 120,000 persons and employment grew by 60,000.

This growth was achieved while an extremely high standard of living was maintained for 92% of residents, who stated in a 2015 survey that their local area was a great place to live.

As chief executive, my priority is to build upon this success by planning for the future economic growth of Cork County and the well-being of its citizens.

People locate where they can enjoy a balanced and attractive quality of life. Thus, economic activity and residential growth are inextricably intertwined.

I must ensure that our infrastructure is developed to a sufficient standard that businesses, and communities, can capitalise on growth opportunities.

Funding is a vital part of this and Project Ireland 2040 — €116bn of investment proposals spread over 20 years — prioritises the strengthening of rural economies and communities.

As the population of our county grows, balanced regional development will be vital to ensure that our interlinked networks of towns and rural areas are attractive places for families to live and for businesses to locate.

A key component of Project Ireland 2040 is the Rural and Urban Regeneration Development Funds. These 10-year funds, valued at €3bn, aim to rejuvenate communities, create jobs, and transform rural economies.

It is Cork County Council’s intention to capitalise on these funding initiatives.

To date, from the first round of competitive bids, as an example of our ambition, we have secured seven of the first 11 projects funded under the Urban Fund, which is focused solely on metropolitan areas and towns that have a population greater than 10,000.

This is an indication of our ambition and what we can achieve over the lifetime of the National Development Plan.

The economic performance of Cork is strong and plays a critical role in both our regional and national economies. Cork contributes 19% to the national GDP and productivity within the Cork metropolitan region is comparable to that of London city and higher than that of Dublin city (Urban Europe Statistics on cities, towns, and suburbs, 2016).

Our growth targets to 2040 provide for an additional 63,000 jobs. According to the 2016 census, there were 93,415 jobs in Cork County, of which 52,583 were across our 26 county towns, with the remaining 40,832 across villages and the countryside.

This points to the critical need for us to have a multi-faceted approach to developing the conditions that support job-creation across every part of our diverse county.

But, at the same time, we must attempt to achieve sustainable development to reduce the reliance on cars for commuting to work, which is at 82% currently.

Cork harbour is one of our greatest assets and one of the finest natural harbours in the world. The harbour area is a focal point for key industries (such as pharmaceuticals and Ireland’s only oil refinery, at Whitegate), while much of the land is in agricultural use. The coastline supports a tourism and recreational product, including habitats and species that are of international importance.

There are opportunities to build on this harbour area success story and the wider county metropolitan area within which it sits.

It is probably the most compelling opportunity in the south of Ireland for growth, by leveraging the unique diversity of the harbour employment network.

Assets such as the existing suburban rail network, the plans for the redevelopment of the Dunkettle interchange and of the M28 motorway to Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy, incremental investment in improvements to Little Island, and further development of the N25 East Cork Parkway will unlock some of the most strategically located land development opportunities in Ireland.

Cork County on the Rise: Things are looking up for Cork

THE transformation of Haulbowline island, Camden Fort Meagher, and Spike Island is evidence of the increased role for the harbour in the future economic, tourism, and recreational life of Cork.

While we have the largest coastline of any county in the country, we are also a rural authority and must continue to work tirelessly to generate opportunities across Cork County.

Funding has been secured, under the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, for our Rural Digital Innovation Hubs Cork-Empowering Rural Innovation project.

This is intended to realise a series of cutting-edge rural digital innovation hubs (DIHs) across our eight municipal districts, in areas with a population of less than 10,000, and leverage particular regional attributes, such as the potential of west Cork for seafood and fisheries and north and east Cork for food and agri-tech, amongst others.

Through this project, we will investigate, design, and cost the transformation of existing, under-utilised assets that can be upgraded as rural DIHs, as a blueprint for the emergence of a new suite of rural digital innovation hubs, where there is a gap in the market within our municipal districts.

Now, more than ever, adding to the conditions that provide for remote-working, hub-working, co-working, and indigenous job creation is critical to securing the longer-term quality of life of Cork County.

While recognising success across a range of funding streams available to our council, we continue to be ambitious in securing multi-annual infrastructure investment for Cork County.

We are, therefore close to finalising the first tranche of a highly strategic, first-ever, multi-annual loan agreement with the European Investment Bank and the Council of Europe Development Bank.

This will fund, over the next 10 years, an investment of €250m in a framework of capital projects, allowing us to be both progressive, and responsive to the needs of towns and villages. It reflects the ambition of both Cork County Council’s elected members and executive.

It can take several years for a project to develop from inception to completion. This loan arrangement would allow us to provide part funding and avail of a variety of funding streams to deliver a range of social infrastructure projects throughout the county.

Projects set to benefit from this funding source include town centre enhancement schemes, the development and upgrade of parks and amenities, tourism-related infrastructure, the development and support of DIH infrastructure in key towns, and environmental and climate change initiatives.

Cork County Council delivers an incredibly diverse set of interventions for business and community life in Cork, many of which are not generally known. Our commitment is to daily, on-the-ground service delivery (which Cork County Council, with the support of your elected members, has increased in terms of human and financial resourcing) and the strategic growth of Cork County.

Our expertise and capacity to deliver are recognised through our leading role in a range of national delivery programmes for local government across the country (such as the Climate Change Office for all of Munster).

We are also an organisation that has achieved many accolades, such as being the first authority in the country to achieve the National Quality Mark ISO50001 for our energy management system across all of our operations (despite being the largest and most diverse county council).

While we cannot deliver on all demands for services, you can be assured that the priorities of your council will continuously be shaped through high levels of engagement with communities, and through active and progressive debate among the elected members and executive team of Cork County Council.

We look forward to continuing to deliver for the citizens of Cork County and securing its future as the best place in the country to visit, live, and do business.

Tim Lucey, chief executive of Cork County Council

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