Former Fine Gael Cllr Jim Corr, who retired from politics last May after 40 years on Cork City Council, has called for a major extension of the city boundary, and for the creation of two new county councils — one to administer the affairs of West Cork and the other for the east of the county.
His stance is in direct contrast to former Cork city manager Tim Lucey, the current chief executive of Cork County Council, who said earlier this month that he believes a merger of the city and county councils to create a super local authority is feasible. County mayor Alan Coleman said there is a compelling case.
But Mr Corr said: “I am totally opposed to a unified authority. It would be nothing more than a talking shop.”
He is to make a detailed submission to the expert group reviewing local government structures in Cork.
The group, chaired by business consultant Alf Smiddy, has set next Friday as its deadline for submissions and September for its final recommendations.
The Smiddy group has been asked to review the case for an extension of the city boundary, or a merger of the city and county councils.
Mr Smiddy said they have been examining local government reform in Australia and New Zealand, and new mergers in Limerick, Waterford, and Tipperary.
“We have engaged with stakeholders, visited city and county areas, and met officials to review the existing structures and discuss the various issues,” he said.
“As part of the process, we have been and will be out in the city and county to understand the issues and problems, actively engaging with the executives and members of both the city and county councils.
”But in his submission, Mr Corr, who has been arguing for decades for a major city boundary extension, said a single super authority would be a “disaster” .
“In 1994, they created four local authorities in Dublin. Although it has a bigger population, it is quarter the size of Cork,” he said.
“A minimalist extension of Cork’s city boundary would be a waste of time, as was the case in 1966 and 1954, and would lead to urban sprawl to fill the extended areas.
“In my opinion, the Cork city boundary should be extended into the metropolitan Cork area to cater for growth in the next century. The rest of the county should then be divided into a West Cork County Council to cover Kinsale, Bandon, and all places west, and an East Cork County Council to cover Youghal, Mitchelstown, and others.
“The demands of urban and rural areas are completely different.”
Last week, Will Brady, the head of UCC’s Centre for Planning Education and Research, told a seminar the creation of a dual metropolitan and county arrangement would be the best approach and present a balanced solution.
He said research shows the region would benefit most from the retention of two councils but with reconfigured structures to create a new enlarged city authority (Cork Metropolitan Council) including the greenbelt, satellite towns, and harbour area for 290,000 people and a reconfigured Cork County Council to cover a population of 230,000.