The need to protect Cork’s ability to compete globally is at the heart of the Mackinnon report, claims City Hall.
Rejecting suggestions that efforts to extend the city boundary is a “land and rates grab”, officials have warned that Cork City risks becoming a third- or fourth- tier city without a substantial boundary extension — its first since 1965.
City council chief executive Ann Doherty said the council has always asserted that Cork has a vital national role to play as Ireland’s second city, and that its potential to fill this role is highlighted by the MacKinnon report.
However, she said, that hinges on the city having the “capacity, authority, and governance independence” to grow and drive sustainable economic and population growth.
She said the Mackinnon report signals the “opportunity to turn the rhetoric around Cork’s growth ambitions into reality” but warned that other city regions in Ireland are making conscious preparations to grow, develop, and respond to new opportunities.
“They could potentially challenge Cork’s place as the natural location to act as a counter-balance to the Dublin area and the eastern seaboard,” she said.
The city pointed to the hard data and European thinking considered by the Mackinnon group that supports the scale of its planned boundary extension.
Pending the release of 2016 Census data later this month, the Mackinnon report shows that, of the total workforce in Ballincollig, 81% commutes to the city daily for work; in Blarney, the figure is 62.5%; and, in Carrigtwohill, the figure is 58.7%.
The report says Ballincollig, as a metropolitan town and a major centre for population and employment growth in close proximity to Cork City, combined with the high density development of its town centre, reflects a more urban development pattern compared to county towns.
Regional planning guidelines have also identified a corridor for high quality rapid transit to link Ballincollig, the city centre, docklands, and Mahon.
“Generally, similar considerations can be said to apply to other suburban towns such as Blarney and Carrigtwohill, in that both have been subject to planned development as metropolitan towns in close proximity to the city, and both can be said to form part of the east-west corridor for Cork city,” said the Mackinnon report.
“Thus the group feel that there are compelling grounds based on both housing density and commuting patterns for considering towns such as Ballincollig, Blarney, and Carrigtwohill as forming an integral part of the de facto urbanised city area.”
The group considered the CSO’s definition of suburbs or environs of a distinct population cluster as a basis for including those populations within defined urban environments.
Ms Doherty also warned that Cork City is not currently not acknowledged as a ‘global city’.
“Belfast is so defined and therefore is at a competitive advantage relative to Cork,” she said.
“Belfast currently has a population of approx 338,000 and is projected to grow to approximately 427,000 by 2035.
“This growth can be comfortably accommodated within the existing development capacity available to the city, with scope for further growth for decades beyond 2035.
“In the proposal put forward by the county council [which has since been rejected], the population proposed for Cork city would be no more than approx 283,000 [one sixth less than the current population of Belfast].
“In ‘island of Ireland’ terms, Cork would considerably fall behind both Dublin and Belfast on the basis of the projections submitted in the Cork County Council proposal.
“Cork City would be closer to Limerick in scale than to Belfast by 2035, and in that context from a policy perspective the City could conceivably fall from being the second city of the Republic to being a third-tier/fourth-tier city on the island.”
Ms Doherty said the relegation of the status of the city would undermine the region, as well as government policies in the National Planning Framework document, due for publication next month.
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