There are hopes of a major IT jobs boost in Cork City following the rezoning of a former Traveller halting site near Apple computer’s European headquarters.
City councillors voted unanimously to rezone the former St Anthony’s site in Hollyhill — in the shadow of the Apple facility — from residential to business and technology use.
The vote, which unlocks the site’s full potential, was one of the final elements of a major masterplan for the Hollyhill area, which has already seen the development of a new ring road around the Apple campus, the disposal of land near the Apple plant to the IDA to facilitate recent expansion at the Apple plant, and the construction of a state-of-the-art Traveller housing scheme.
There was controversy during the summer when Traveller families on the old halting site refused to relocate to the housing project. But, following negotiations, the families agreed to move in June. The successful transfer of the residents freed up the former halting site for other uses.
Planners prepared a report on the proposed rezoning of the site, which came before councillors on Monday night.
Senior planner Ann Bogan said the proposed rezoning from residential to business and technology use was to facilitate job creation in the area.
She said the proposed variation to the 2015-2021 City Development plan was subject to public consultation and that only one submission, which was supportive of the proposal, was received.
Of the 19 councillors who voted on the issue, all voted in favour to rezone the site.
Local Fianna Fáil Cllr Tony Fitzgerald welcomed the outcome and described the move as hugely significant, not just for the northside, but for the entire city.
“The successful transfer of the residents of the former St Anthony’s Park left a large land-bank vacant,” he said.
“The decision to rezone it now is a catalyst for more expansion of the IT sector and for companies who want to invest through the IDA or Enterprise Ireland to stay on the northside, and build on this land-bank and expand their services.”
While Apple has already completed a major expansion of its Hollyhill campus in recent years, it is not clear whether further expansion is planned.
Mr Fitzgerald said the rezoning provides the tech firm with another opportunity for expansion and job creation. But he said improved road infrastructure into Hollyhill and Churchfield industrial estates is essential to secure and drive further investment across the northside.
“The obvious solution to that is to open up access off the Commons Road, through Blackstone Bridge into Hollyhill, and to develop the North Ring Road to link westwards to Ballincollig and eastwards to the toll at Watergrasshill,” he said.
That huge road project, which has been on the drawing board for years and which has a multi-million price tag, was shelved during the recession.
Apple established its European headquarters in Cork in 1980 with a team of just 70 people engaged in manufacturing. Today, with almost 4,000-employees, it is one of the city’s largest private employers and one of the tech firm’s most important operations.
Its operations here also support an estimated 2,500 indirect jobs.
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