‘Cork City must change or risk irrelevance’, says outgoing head of planning

Pat Ledwidge: Boundary provides a tremendous opportunity for this city to grow and go forward. I look forward to seeing it grow.

If you don’t like change, you’ll hate irrelevance, the outgoing head of planning in Cork City has warned.

Pat Ledwidge made his parting comments during a lecture on the future of the city at UCC’s Centre for Local and Regional Governance annual lecture series ahead of his retirement from Cork City Council yesterday after a 32-year career.

He told attendees that lifelong learning and upskilling are essential, not just for individuals but for cities too.

“If you react to change by retreating into a corner, you risk becoming irrelevant,” he said.

Mr Ledwidge said the city must adapt across a range of areas, from retail to planning, transport to technology, if it is to compete, not just with other Irish cities, but internationally, and that will include building more and higher residential developments in Cork.

His remarks come against the backdrop of a massive city boundary extension in June, and huge private-sector investment in several docklands office, hotel and apartment schemes which are set to deliver up to 5,000 city-centre jobs over the next three years.

In recent months, Mr Ledwidge has signed off on decisions to grant planning for a €100m residential development with a 25-storey tower on the Mahon peninsula, soaring city-centre office blocks like the Prism, which is under appeal, and he was involved in discussions on proposals for a 40-storey tower, twice the height of the Elysian, on Custom House Quay.

Debate is still raging about the council’s ban on cars from St Patrick’s St every afternoon in favour of buses as part of a wider strategy to future-proof the city’s public transport system.

The stalled event centre process Mr Ledwidge has been overseeing for several years is still bogged down in legal issues over funding. He has agreed to continue working on that project.

He said his career provided him with great opportunities for education and travel, which broadened his perspective on many issues.

“I hope I brought some of those ideas back to Cork,” he said.

Seeing the city secure its first boundary extension in half a century was one of the highlights of his career, he said. “It provides a tremendous opportunity for this city to grow and go forward and I look forward to seeing it grow,” he said.

Mr Ledwidge has been replaced as director of services in the council’s strategic planning and economic directorate by Fearghal Reidy, a former senior member of the management team at Waterford City and County Council.

He was praised by city councillors earlier this week for his professionalism and integrity, and for pioneering Cork’s twinning links with Shanghai over a decade ago. Several other Irish cities have followed a similar twinning strategy with Chinese cities in recent years.

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