The publication of a timetable for the delivery of Cork’s stalled €53m events centre is now being considered in a bid to restore public faith in the project.
Minister for Local Government Simon Coveney said he hopes the timeline could be published soon following criticism over the lack of progress on the site four months on from the official sod turning by Taoiseach Enda Kenny a week before the general election.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin launched another broadside at the Government yesterday over the timing of the sod-turning.
“Enda Kenny came down here just before the election and turned an imaginary sod on the event centre. That kind of old-style gesture politics has no place in the modern world and he should not have done it,” he said.
The delay on building work has been blamed on outstanding internal design issues. But it emerged two weeks ago that funding contracts for the public funding streams have yet to be signed, and that the developers have sought an extension of their planning permission, first granted in 2011. With three months of archaeological investigation still required on site, there are now fears that construction work may not start before the end of this year.
Mr Coveney met last week with BAM construction, who own the Beamish and Crawford site, and global entertainment giants, Live Nation, who will operate the events centre, to “understand the detail” of where they are in relation to the delivery of the project.
He described it as a “good and frank discussion” but declined to comment on the detail of the conversation, insisting however that both partners are “absolutely committed” to the project.
“I know there is a real impatience in Cork to understand the timetable here,” he said. “There are lots of people deeply committed to this project. I’m one of them, as is the Lord Mayor, the chief executive of the city council, and the Government. We will make this happen. It is taking time, and that’s frustrating a lot of people but this is a big, big project and unfortunately it’s not moving at a pace that some of us want to to see it moving at.
“But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. We need to stick with the process.”
Citing previous “false dawns” on Cork’s event centre saga, he said there are a lot of positive things to recognise this time. “There will be a point, in the not too distant future, where there will be a timetable for this project that we can publicly launch so that people aren’t in the dark, in terms of whether work is going to start this week, this month, or whatever,” he said.
He stressed that while he has worked hard to advance the project and secured increased public funding for it, ultimately it isn’t his project.
“There are some people who have committed huge money, and there is risk attached to the project, and to be fair to them, I want to give them time and space to finalise commercial arrangements,” he said.
Cork City Council, which is committing €8m to the project, has asked the developers to brief councillors.
Despite calls for the meeting to be held in public, officials said it should be held in private because of outstanding commercial sensitivities linked to funding.
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