Plans for exhibition centre on outskirts of Cork are shot down

Plans for exhibition centre on outskirts of Cork are shot down

Plans for a near €40m RDS-style exhibition centre on the outskirts of Cork city have been shot down to protect the 'greenbelt' and to protect any attempts to deliver similar facilities in the city.

The details are contained in a ruling from An Bórd Pleanála on the appeals against the grant of planning by Cork County Council earlier this year for the Munster Agricultural Society's (MAS) proposed venue on its 48-acre site in Curraheen.

The Bórd said it took into account the site's "unserviced remote rural location" just south of the N40 Ballincollig bypass and the various zoning objections for the greenbelt.

But it said the proposed development would "contribute substantially to the erosion of the greenbelt", would undermine the orderly development of such facilities in Cork city, and would also add substantially to traffic volumes using an inadequate road network, and increase volumes at heavily trafficked junctions leading to the N40, thereby posing a traffic hazard.

MAS director, Gerard Murphy, said the not-for-profit charitable organisation was disappointed with the decision but accepted it.

"This is a concept we have been working on since the early 2000s," he said. 

"We have never been shy about putting our best foot forward and we spent in the region of €500,000 putting this planning application together.

"We will have to assess this decision, and then liaise with Cork City Council on the future zoning of this site to see what their intentions are for the future development of this site, to see if they want to support the project on this site. 

"If they want housing on it, then we may have to consider selling up and moving on.

"But if similar projects proposed in Waterford or Limerick happen, then this Cork project will not be viable and Cork will lose out."

The MAS applied to Cork County Council last summer for planning permission to build the two-storey facility overlooking its existing Curraheen “show fields” - home to Cork Summer Show.

While Cork City Council became the planning authority for the site under the city boundary extension last May, the planning decision remained with county planners.

Local residents flagged concerns, including traffic volumes and flooding risk, and the city council flagged concerns about the project's impact on its stalled efforts to deliver an events centre in the city centre.

County planners granted planning in January with 42 conditions, including that the venue could not be used as an examinations hall.

The decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by a number of local residents. 

The MAS also appealed the condition banning exams hall use.

Senior Bord Pleanála inspector Kevin Moore said the development of a multi-purpose sports, exhibition and education facility at this location would constitute "an incompatible use within the greenbelt, would significantly intensify non-showground and commercial operations in this greenbelt, would contribute substantially to the erosion of the greenbelt, and would constitute an undesirable precedent for development of this nature" in the area.

He also said it would undermine the viability and development of events centres within serviced urban areas in the wider area.

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