New planning permission may be needed for Cork events centre

The developers of Cork’s stalled event centre may have to apply for new planning permission after it emerged that they need to build a bigger venue, writes Eoin English of the Irish Examiner

The latest twist in the saga comes less than 24-hours after BAM told city councillors the project needs an extra €12m in public funding - double the amount already committed by Government - to ensure the 6,000-seat facility is built on the former Beamish and Crawford site.

The State has already committed €20m to get the project off the ground - €12m from Government and €8m from Cork City Council.

However, councillors were told during the course of an almost two-hour private meeting with BAM executives on Monday that the Government will now have to double its investment to ensure the project is delivered.

BAM chief executive Theo Cullinane said that while the outline cost of the venue has increased from €53m to at least €65m, the final costings have yet to be signed off. He said cost consultants have recommended that the company make provision for a €6m contingency.

Mr Cullinane said the increased costs have arisen from design changes sought by venue operators Live Nation which came on board after the original tender for public funding was awarded to BAM over two years ago.

The original design proposed a 10,000 sq m venue but following a year of detailed internal design work with Live Nation, a 13,500 sq m building has now been designed to provide enough mode flexibility to make it commercially viable.

It is understood that BAM had to sacrifice one office block in its proposed Brewery Quarter regeneration to facilitate the larger event centre. Informed sources close to the process said given the significance of the changes, the larger venue will require planning permission.

However, they said that, despite the expected planning application, the imminent request for extra public funding, and the value for money process it will be subjected to by Government, BAM’s proposed September start date is ambitious but achievable.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said it is vital now for Government to recognise the importance of the project to the city and wider region.

"Clearly, the delays have been a disappointment," he said.

"It would have been much better to understand the position we are in now, ahead of time. But we are where we are. We must remember that no public money has been spent yet - it’s all private funding to date. We do have a shortfall of €12m but this project will deliver an enormous return to the exchequer. The focus now should be on ensuring that the extra funding is found. The government must continue to recognise the merits of the project. It’s important that it moves ahead."

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner

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