Reader's Blog: High rents, developers sucking soul out of Cork

Image: Dennis Horgan.

I lived in Cork from 1999-2017 and I still have strong connections with the city, through music, work, and friends. I was 22 when I moved there, and though I didn’t intend to stay long-term, a force-field surrounds the city: It is comprised of good, creative, positive, welcoming people and it drew me in. I quickly realised that I had stumbled into the ideal urban environment in which to live.

Since 2005, when the City of Culture brought deserved international recognition, there has been a subtle but discernable change in Cork. Of course, the city was affected by the economic crash of 2008, but something else is being sacrificed.

The recent rise in property prices and the resumption of stalled development plans has resulted in a dire shortage of accommodation. This has led to an exodus of creative people from Cork, who can no longer find affordable places to either live or work.

When counted against the tragic cases of homelessness that blight the mainstreets, this might not seem important, but Cork is losing on every level, because of the opportunism of speculative property investors, who own countless empty buildings throughout the city.

Cork County Council has the power to use compulsory purchase orders to put these buildings back in circulation and relieve the crisis. They should do so without delay.

The city’s fabric is being compromised. The old stone warehouses by the quays, the continuity of streetscapes, and the few remaining green areas are being lost. Buildings reflect the soul of a city and Cork’s lopsided, multi-coloured, hodge-podge of architectural styles was, for me, utterly charming. By allowing developers to impose their ideas on the city, like the privatisation of Faulkner’s Lane into Opera Lane, we are giving up a unique identity.

The Office of Public Works’ plans for the quays, if carried out, will be hugely destructive to the character and atmosphere of the city. This leads us to the crux.

Flooding will only get worse as the effects of climate change increase in intensity. Neither Cork city nor its surrounds are prepared for what is to come. What is to come cannot be answered using hard engineering solutions, like concrete walls and barriers, no matter how ergonomical their design.

In addition, the dams on the river Lee will be a serious danger to the city in extreme weather scenarios and should be demolished for the health of the river and the safety of Cork’s inhabitants. They are defunct and unnecessary.

Indeed, a radical rethink of how we interact with our environment is necessary, if we are to navigate the coming decades. Soft engineering flooding solutions, like wetlands, woodlands, protection of upland heath — with the aim of slowing down water flows — have much more potential to manage deluges.

Rising sea levels will be more difficult to negotiate, but, again, walls in the city will do little to counter them.

We should be looking at improving its transport options, reducing its carbon output, and maximising its mitigation potential. There is plenty of talent in the city that can be tapped.

Tom Jordan

Dunmanway

Co Cork

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