Planning experts say merger of councils would fail Cork

Three planning experts have warned against merging Cork city and county councils, claiming that a single authority will be oversized, unwieldy, undemocratic and unworkable.

“A combined authority simply cannot provide the required focus to govern the needs of Ireland’s second city as well as Ireland’s biggest county at the same time,” they said.

William Brady, Jonathan Hall and Brendan O’Sullivan, of UCC’s Centre for Planning Education and Research, make their comments after the Cork Local Government Review (CLGR) committee’s report this week. It was split three-to-two in favour or a merger.

The planning experts said if implemented, Ireland’s second city would be demoted to municipal district status, with powers equivalent to places like Edenderry, Letterkenny and Dunshaughlin. They said: “This thinking rejects all available evidence and best practice, and is something that no other European city would countenance.”

But they said it is clear from the review that Cork needs separate leadership and governance structures to represent an expanded, metropolitan core, and the county’s rural areas.

“A single authority simply cannot and will not be able to provide this. In fact, it gives us the worst of both worlds — an oversized and unworkable entity that will never be able to fully meet the needs of the two core constituencies. Instead, they will be diluted, downgraded and confused.” they said.

CLGR chairman Alf Smiddy said the report outlines why a city boundary extension was rejected and refers to international research and evidence supporting mergers: “And when you delve into history, it’s a story of failure with so much acrimony, division and friction when a Cork boundary extension was looked at so many times before.

“The people of Cork would not thank me and my committee for repeating the mistakes of history and putting forward once again a theoretical solution that was unimplementable, unworkable, or not viable — it would be the case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

 

Analysis: 15

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