Plan to develop retail hub despite traffic problems

One of Cork’s busiest tech and retail hubs can take more development despite its chronic traffic problems, a major new report claims.

An ambitious 20-year blueprint for the development of the Mahon peninsula says it can accommodate a population increase of 7,000 and can handle 2,850 new residential units and 8,000 new workers.

This is despite National Road Authority concerns that extra travel demand on the N40 South Link Rd results in unacceptable levels of congestion or queuing at the Mahon interchange.

City councillors have also expressed serious concerns the plan does not address the serious traffic issues already blighting the area.

City planners have insisted Mahon can take this level of development as long as there is investment in a high-quality bus-based public transport service; that the potential for non-car trips is maximised; and a more sustainable compact pattern of development is achieved to allow people to live and work in the area.

The draft plan took two years to complete and covers a vast area, just off the N40 South Link Rd and close to the Jack Lynch Tunnel.

Mahon is home to one of Ireland’s largest shopping centres, a massive retail park, the National Software Centre, the CSO headquarters, the Mater Private Hospital, and several hi-tech software companies.

The residential area of Jacob’s Island is located just across the N40 where chronic traffic jams are a problem at peak hours.

The draft plan sets out a broad vision to guide development in the area over the next 20 years, and aims to:

* Create new employment opportunities within Mahon Technology Park;

* Create a new residential neighbourhood within Bessboro House lands and Mahon Industrial Estate;

* Complete the Ursuline Convent and Jacob’s Island as residential neighbourhoods;

* Improve Avenue De Rennes and Mahon Point Shopping Centre to provide focal points for community, social, and services activity;

* Create a neighbourhood centre, to include shops and retail, on Jacob’s Island.

Given the current economic conditions, planners say it will be delivered in the long-term.

Cllr Denis O’Flynn (Lab) said the area cannot take any more development until its road network and transport links are upgraded.

“We keep putting in residential development in to this area but people are on to me on a weekly basis about traffic jams in the area and nobody seems to be listening,” he said.

Cllr Des Cahill (FG) said the plan did not address traffic and access issues. “A lot of work needs to be done to fix that,” he said.

City engineers should find a way to develop a second link to the area off the N40 and present that solution to the NRA, he added.

Cllr Terry Shannon (FF) said while Mahon has come a long way over the last 20 years, the traffic situation is causing huge problems.

However, city manager Tim Lucey said the plan is underpinned by a comprehensive traffic management study which will enable it to accommodate the proposed level of population and employment growth.

“This is a major document not just for Mahon, but for the city,” he said.

“It has been developed to be complimentary to city centre development and to Cork docklands.”

The draft document will now go out for public consultation for up to six weeks before submissions are considered.

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