A 348-bed student apartment complex up to five storeys high is set to go ahead in Cork’s western suburbs after councillors voted to materially contravene the city development plan.
They voted by a margin of 25-3 for the move following a lengthy debate during last night’s city council meeting, in which the spate of student apartment development in the city was described as a form of “ethnic cleansing” of existing residential communities.
Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer made the comment as councillors discussed the proposed project near CIT in Bishopstown.
Montesa Ltd had applied for permission to demolish the former O’Mahony Packaging Building on the Melbourn Road and build 63-student apartments over five blocks ranging in height from three to five storeys high, as well as 172 bike spaces and 36 car parking spaces.
However, because the site is zoned for business and technology uses, the project required 23 councillors to support a material contravention of the city development plan and change the zoning to residential in order to secure planning permission.
Planners, who recommended the move, described it as a “relatively benign” project, pointing out that the site is close to CIT and the four-storey Parchment Square student accommodation complex.
They said it will be well-managed and will help meet the demand for student accommodation in the city, where more than 4,500 UCC students live in dedicated student accommodation with another 5,500 in need of accommodation.
However, Mr Buttimer hit out at the way the proposal was brought before council.
Accepting that it was the right site for student apartments, he slated the lack of a coherent city-wide strategy to guide the development, location, and management of student apartments.
He said there are plans in the pipeline to provide up to 3,500 student beds on various sites across the city but he said the development of student apartments is “choking and suffocating traditional residential communities” and driving residents out of traditional suburban areas.
He said allowing the developments of these projects in certain areas is akin to “ethnic cleansing” of local communities.
Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin said there has been an “erosion of family life” in once residential areas around CIT and UCC because of the growth of student housing.
He called for an environmental impact study on the impact of such buildings, some up to five storeys, which will overlook third-generation family homes.
Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Shields said some residents are close to “nervous breakdown” from the behaviour of some students in the area.
Council chief executive Ann Doherty said councillors had raised important points about policy which should be discussed at committee level.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved