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Cork on the Rise: We want a city of neighbourhoods, where residents feel part of vibrant communities

Relocating port facilities from the city docklands (at the top of the picture) some 30km downstream to Ringaskiddy is a key move which will allow for growth within the city Picture: Tom Coakley

The CEO of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty, sets out the city’s vision for growth, and points out that next month’s historic boundary extension will finally give a voice at council to people who already participate in the life of the city

On May 31, Cork City will grow to nearly five times its size, taking in parts of the county that include Douglas, Rochestown, Ballincollig, Frankfield, Grange, Donnybrook, Blarney, Tower, and Glanmire.

As part of this historic expansion, the population of the city will grow by 85,000 to 210,000.

The Government sees significant untapped potential in our new city, and is pledging that, with the right investment and funding, our new city will offer such an attractive proposition to residents, investors, and business that its population will swell to 350,000 by 2040.

In the words of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Cork Chamber of Commerce annual Dublin dinner:

For Ireland to succeed, we need Cork to succeed.

Cork City Council’s vision is focussed on creating a city of sustainable urban growth — a city that is built for the future, where families can live close to work, schools, green spaces, and public transport.

We want a city of neighbourhoods, where our residents feel part of vibrant communities with a rich cultural offering: communities where they can walk easily, cycle easily, and rely on their bus service.

Key to this is the relocation of the Port of Cork to Ringaskiddy and the regeneration of the docklands, a game-changing project for our city. At 180 hectares in size, it will be the largest brownfield development site in the country. It will herald a new style of urban living in Cork, a kind that will justify a public transport corridor from Ballincollig to Wilton, to the docklands, and on to Mahon.

The Government has pledged €200m in BusConnects funding to Cork so we can fuel our ambition.

A view of St Patrick’s Street from the newly renovated bridge St Patrick’s Bridge

These public-transport corridors will determine where we build, live, and invest in our city.

We won’t build simply for the sake of building, but where we can offer our citizens quality housing, transport, and services, where they have access to green public spaces that they want to relax in, where their children can safely play in.

Cork is a city rising. There’s a million square feet of office space in development or planning within the city centre, with the capacity to accommodate up to 10,000 additional jobs.

Aside from over €510m in office development, the city will see a 30% increase in hotel bedrooms in the next three to four years and over 1,000 student bed spaces have been completed or are under construction, with another 400 hostel beds given planning permission.

The Financial Times’ fDi Magazine named Cork as the most business-friendly small city in Europe last year. It was also included in its overall top 20 European Cities and Regions of the Future.

As we all know, one of our country’s big challenges is housing. Traditionally here in Cork, we’ve seen housing develop in towns adjacent to the city and in suburbs and rural areas that surround our city.

But Ireland is rapidly changing. We travel more. We are marrying later. We have fewer children. Ireland is an increasingly multicultural society — up to 42% of our city centre population is from new communities. Our planning policy needs to reflect these quickly-evolving demands.

The new generation of office workers want to be less car-dependent. We need a mix of quality city-centre apartments and suburban living with good public transport.

Simon Coveney and Port of Cork chairman John Mullins at last June’s launch of the Port of Cork’s €80m Cork Container Terminal development in Ringaskiddy. Picture: Clare Keogh

The city council has a Rebuilding Ireland target of 2,230 homes between 2017 and 2021.

These additional homes will be delivered through new construction, the purchase of vacant housing units, and leasing. It is envisaged that more than 1,500 of these homes will be provided through construction. Cork City Council met and exceeded our housing targets last year.

May 31 is a historic milestone as it is the first boundary extension in 50 years. Up to now, the Cork City boundary hadn’t kept up with population growth. Lots of people worked and socialised in the city, and sent their children to city schools, but they weren’t politically represented in Cork City Council.

It is important that this deficit is being addressed in the local elections next month.

A lot of the communities that are due to come into the new city administration area are quite rural. We want to reassure these communities that we expect them to remain quite rural over the next 50 years.

Our new city is about planning for a growing city: it’s about laying the groundwork for a city with good job opportunities, with sustainable private and social housing, a city that has the density of population to support world-class public transport. However, all of this growth must be accompanied by policy to protect the uniqueness of Cork.

We know that local identity is a strong emotional pull for Cork people and that’s why we developed the new plaza at Blackrock village, and also supported residents and traders to bolster community identity in new city-centre quarters including Douglas St and the Victorian Quarter (around MacCurtain St).

We will be just as committed to preserving and enhancing communities in Ballincollig, Tower, Blarney, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, Togher, Glanmire, and Rochestown.

A lot of the newer neighbourhoods in the city have great community spirit that has been showcased through community activities like Tidy Towns. We will strongly encourage these groups and will work with them to strengthen community spirit further.

We believe that the new city is a city of communities; a city of neighbourhoods. We believe cities are for people.

Ann Doherty, Cork City CEO

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