The decision to award planning permission to the Port of Cork’s €100m redevelopment of Ringaskiddy harbour has been met with mixed reaction from local representatives in the area.
While Fine Gael and Sinn Féin MEPs joined a Fine Gael junior minister in welcoming the news, a local TD and a councillor were critical about the awarding of planning permission in an area they believe lacks suitable infrastructure for a development of its size.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South Central Michael McGrath described the news as “an extremely disappointing decision by An Bord Pleanála”.
He said: “In my view Ringaskiddy is the wrong location for the port’s container terminal for a number of reasons, but particularly given the infrastructural deficit in the area.
“To grant permission for a large-scale expansion of port activity in Ringaskiddy without the upgraded N28 operational is absolutely illogical. The new N28 is likely to take many years yet and the existing road network is simply not able to cope with the current volume of traffic.
“Of particular annoyance is the fact that An Bord Pleanála’s inspector recommended refusal of this application, but the board did not accept the recommendation.”
Mr McGrath added: “The board has not sufficiently justified the reasons why the inspector’s recommendation was not accepted and this is extremely disheartening for all those who genuinely participated in the oral hearing.”
His sentiments were echoed by independent county councillor Marcia D’Alton.
“The road network to Ringaskiddy has had no improvement since the port’s last application for a major development at Ringaskiddy was refused in 2008,” she said.
“Ringaskiddy is unlikely to ever have a rail link. So the reasons for refusal of a major expansion of facilities at Ringaskiddy in 2008 are all still valid. Yet the board has now granted planning permission, seven years later, on the grounds of potential future upgrades to the road network and the Port of Cork’s potential for future development at Marino Point.
“It is not proper planning or sustainable development to justify permission for any development on the grounds of other developments which may or may not happen.”
Ms D’Alton was also critical of An Bord Pleanála’s decision not to require the Port of Cork to financially compensate local residents for the time and effort they made during the planning application process.
As part of the planning decision, the Port of Cork is to pay €61,351 and €30,662 in compensation to an Bord Pleanála and Cork County Council, respectively.
“The communities, who lost work time, holiday time, and who incurred significant expense are not to be financially compensated in any way,” she said.
Port of Cork would not be drawn on criticisms of the planning decision, but chief executive Brendan Keating said the company would look to liaise with residents.
“We are conscious of the concerns raised by the residents of Cork Harbour, particularly those raised at the oral hearing last September. We will be consulting further with residents and with all harbour users in relation to the development,” he said.
Dara Murphy, a junior minister and Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central, said relocating the port’s operations away from the city would benefit local residents.
“This is a win-win decision for both the local residents in Tivoli and Glanmire as traffic congestion will now be eased in the area, while the Cork docklands urban regeneration project can progress,” he said.
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada said she was aware of locals’ concerns, but backed the planning decision.
“Expansion at Ringaskiddy will mean greater capacity, opening trade to larger vessels and supporting economic growth. The development will create in the order of 600-700 construction jobs, and make Cork part of a global trade network, and a significant European logistics hub,” she said.
Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune described the decision as a “boost” for Cork.
“The failure to construct new deep water container berthing facilities to address the ongoing trend towards larger container vessels would place the Port of Cork at an operational and competitive disadvantage due to the current physical constraints experienced at Tivoli container terminal,” she said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved