Cork County Council is looking at the possibility of rezoning around 300 acres in the Ballyvolane area which could, come an economic upturn, see the development of shopping centres, a major park and up to 3,000 houses.
Cllr Pat Burton, who is running for Fine Gael in Cork North Central, recently proposed that a new hospital also be built on that rezoned land.
However, he has come under attack from one of Labour’s election candidates, Cllr John Gilroy, who has claimed such a move would cost the taxpayer dearly and is totally unnecessary.
Mr Gilroy, a psychiatric nurse at St Stephen’s Hospital, Glanmire, said the HSE already owns 110 acres on that site which would be an ideal location for a new hospital, as it would be adjacent to the proposed Northern Ring Road.
“If the HSE decides that a new hospital is required, I would suggest that instead of spending scarce public money buying zoned land from private land owners they use the land they already own at St Stephen’s Hospital.
“The land in Ballyvolane is in private ownership. As an auctioneer Cllr Burton will know that the minute the HSE express an interest in buying land the price will immediately rise to several times what it’s actually worth. We have seen this with the VEC buying land in Carrigaline,” Cllr Gilroy said.
He said long-term plans were being drawn up to replace the Mercy University Hospital and South Infirmary with a hospital on the outskirts of the city.
“I think it would be much more sensible if we await the analyses that will be carried out to assess the need for a new hospital and in the meantime continue to support our existing hospitals in Cork,” Mr Gilroy added.
Mr Burton hit back by accusing the Labour councillor of “failing to grasp the bigger picture”.
“What we are aiming to do is transform the northside. This is long-term thinking, advance strategic planning,” he said.
He said he didn’t think the cost of purchasing land for a hospital in Ballyvolane would be excessive.
“There may even be an opportunity for landowners to do a land swap with the HSE at St Stephen’s Hospital,” the Fine Gael councillor added.