by Rob McNamara
Proposals by Cork County Council which vastly scale back on recommendations in the MacKinnon report for a city boundary extension have been described by city politicians and business leaders as “farcical” and a “sticky plaster” solution.
Cork County Council believe that their extension proposal and the potential for major growth within the existing city through regeneration of the Docklands, Mahon, Blackpool, Tramore Road, Kinsale Road and Tivoli would provide for population growth up to 283,000 and could create 50,000 jobs.
However, high rates bases such as Ballincollig, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Cork Airport are controversially excluded from their plan.
Under the new proposals, €16m from commercial rates and property tax would immediately be transferred to the city, while its population would increase by 32,000 with a geographical landscape increase of 85%.
County Council has been criticised for announcing the new proposals just weeks before both councils meet the implementation committee appointed by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, whose Department is overseeing the extension.
Cork Business Association (CBA) CEO Lawrence Owens said the alternative County Council plans are “tokenistic” and not in the long-term interests of the region.
“What I didn't want to see was a piecemeal or sticky plaster submission. What we want is a solution that is best for everybody. This is not the answer,” he said.
“It's probably better than nothing but it's not what the objective is. The MacKinnon report is there and, as far as I'm concerned with the CBA, that is the template that we want to work on.
“We want to end up with a capacity of 520,000 as the second city in the State to drive the southern region and the whole of Cork,” he added.
Drawing battle lines is not productive and not in the interests of the people of Cork, according to CBA President Pat O'Connell.
“We're years waiting for the extension so we have to get it right so it's a big enough size to support the city and drive the whole region. I don't think it's up to County Council and the fun and games should stop now really at this stage and people should sit down and do what they need to do and get on with it in the interests of the city,” he said.
However, several County councillors have defended the plans.
Kanturk-Mallow representative John Paul O'Shea said it was a fair proposal that should be given consideration, while Fianna Fáil party leader at County Hall Seamus McGrath called the plans “sensible and sound”.
Fine Gael's Kevin Murphy said County Council's offer was “generous” and should be accepted by their city counterparts.
Responding to the announcement of the proposals by Cork County Council Former Lord Mayor of Cork city Des Cahill said the proposals were “daft” and should be ignored.
“It's not a solution. It's really that simple. Some of the language used was unnecessary and bordering on childish. They've taken a long time to come up with a solution. They've never once shown a map in four years and what their extension would be, so to come with this now is daft,” he said.
“It's no compromise and a short-term option that is not even worth considering. In the Ireland 2040 documents, it already assumes we have a population of 200,000. That is the road map for the country for the next 20 years so they are already wrong. Their figure for population growth only comes up to 160,000. It's farcical,” he added.
This article first appeared in the Evening Echo