Builders criticise barriers to development in the Cork region

Fiscal Council also warns of a shortage of construction workers to meet Development Plan targets
Builders criticise barriers to development in the Cork region

(Left to right) Cllr. Fergal Dennehy, deputising for the Lord Mayor of Cork; Ann Doherty, Chief Executive, Cork City Council; Frank Kelly, President, Construction Industry Federation; Ann Graham, CEO, National Transport Authority; Michael O'Sullivan Green, Chairman, Cork Branch, CIF and Conor O'Connell, Director, Southern Region, CIF, at the Construction Industry Federation conference at the The Clayton Silversprings Hotel in Cork. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Delays to the development of key infrastructure projects for the Cork region due to judicial review court cases were highlighted as barriers for the region's developments at the Construction Industry Federation conference held yesterday.

The builders' representative body said a range of plans were currently in place for development in the region but were often met with opposition that results in significant delays.

"Unfortunately, in the city over the last number of years, we have seen judicial review to the flood defence scheme we have had judicial reviews to housing. There are constant constraints to delivery," Conor O’Connell, Director of the CIF for the Southern Region said.

He was joined on a panel discussion by the Chief Executive of Cork City Council Ann Doherty, the Chief Executive of the National Transport Authority Ann Graham and the chair of the CIF Cork Region Michael O'Sullivan Green.

Ms Doherty said that without reference to any current legal reviews currently taking place, she believed there was a need to change the way appeals are handled in relation to infrastructure projects.

"I do think there needs to be a special court to deal with infrastructural-related issues because it just kind of gets all caught up in the general court system," she said. "There has to be an expedition of that."

Ms Doherty said initial engagement with the public on projects was critical and could avoid future objections but said this could be backed up with court provisions for fast-tracking objections so that decisions on projects could be made more quickly.

In relation to transport projects for the city, Ms Graham of the NTA said the body had established an office in Cork working alongside consultants planning the initial phases of the planned Cork commuter rail project. It is planned to electrify the suburban rail system, upgrade signalling and install double tracks between Midleton and Glounthaune.

"There's now investment going into the first phase of the delivery of Cork commuter rail in terms of double-tracking snd signalling, and also the through platform at Kent Station. The team of consultants are being brought together by Irish Rail. That will allow us to increase the frequency of services."

Separately, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) said the National Development Plan sees the Government commit to raising public investment to 5.4% of national income by 2024, then keep it at that level. They warned that this is far above typical rates seen in the OECD of 3% to 4%.

"This will put more pressure on an already tight construction sector. Around 180,000 workers would be required in construction to achieve the Government’s planned increases," IFAC said. "Getting there could be difficult and migration flows may not boost workers as in the past.

IFAC's Chief Economist, Eddie Casey said: “Ireland has had a poor track record in preventing substantial overruns on its capital spending. Ramping up public investment at the same time as there are shortfalls in construction workers could magnify these problems."

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