Docklands renewal report published after 2-year wait

A REPORT which urges the Government to spend more than €500,000 to kickstart one of the state’s biggest urban regeneration projects has finally been published — two years after its completion.

However, its recommendation that an agency be set up to oversee the €8 billion Cork Docklands project is unlikely to happen because of spending scandals associated with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.

The Cork Docklands Development Forum, set up in 2007 to drive the regeneration, submitted its report to Government in July 2008 outlining how best the state could help.

The Department of the Environment finally published the 52-page report on its website on Tuesday.

Fine Gael’s spokesperson on innovation and research, Deirdre Clune, welcomed the move but criticised the delay.

“The fact that it has been slipped out with no announcement by the minster is very disturbing,” she said.

“I would have expected that the minister could have used the opportunity to outline the Government’s commitment to seeing this unique area developed as an economic stimulus to Cork city and the region. The ‘no comment’ approach speaks volumes.”

But Green Party chairman Dan Boyle described its publication as a “sign of progress”.

“The whole question of a stand-alone agency, a turf war between the forum and Cork City Council and the fall out from Dublin Docklands development board, a model which has been shown to have serious flaws, have all been considered by Minister John Gormley during that time.”

He believes Cork City Council should be empowered to drive the project forward and remains hopeful state funding will be found to fund infrastructure like the Eastern Gateway Bridge.

There have been contacts between department officials and city officials in recent months to discuss various funding issues.

The forum’s report describes the redevelopment of Cork Docklands as the “most significant proposed urban regeneration scheme, outside of Dublin, in the history of the state”. “The proposed development is a project of national and, indeed international significance, which, in terms of potential economic, social, cultural and environmental impact, compares favourably with similar Docklands developments in cities such as Barcelona, Hamburg and Helsinki,” it states.

The report said the Exchequer should spend an estimated €615 million on essential infrastructure, including bridges and roads, to facilitate the development of the sprawling Cork Docklands region.

It said the long-term benefits would out-weigh the “short-term costs of providing such infrastructure”.

If the regeneration goes ahead as planned, the population of Cork Docklands will increase from 500 to approximately 22,000 over 20 years. The regeneration will create approximately 27,000 new jobs.

It acknowledges that the Government would face significant costs and that this will create “pressure” on the Exchequer.

But it said the potential of the Docklands site is hugely significant.

It called for the setting up of a Special Purpose Agency (SPA), that would work with Cork City Council, with a time- bound mandate to promote implementation of the vision for Docklands.

However, that is unlikely to happen now.

Another recommendation, the establishment of a high level implementation group, to advise on and oversee the establishment of the SPA, was acted upon but there has been little progress since.

More in this section