The plan for the 5,850-house town at Monard served by shops, schools, and a railway station looked dead in the water yesterday morning when a large number of councillors said they were going to vote against it.
They said they were unhappy with several aspects of the plan for the new town, which is 7km north of Cork City and close to Blarney.
The council meeting was adjourned for three hours as chief executive Tim Lucey held talks with party leaders in an effort to prevent them rejecting the project, which took council planners eight years to draw up.
The council agreed to publish the revised plans early next month when it is expected that a number of objections will be taken to An Bord Pleanála which will result in a second oral hearing.
An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for the Monard project in 2013, primarily because there was no certainty that the National Roads Authority (NRA) would ever build the proposed northern ring road, or even if it did that it would provide a junction link from it into Monard.
In the interim the council resurrected the plan and tried to address the issues which resulted in the Bord Pleanála rejection.
Mr Lucey said the land at Monard had been designated a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) by the Government in 2010 and argued it was “vital for the future delivery of housing in the Cork metropolitan area”.
He said the council had now agreed with the NRA that a junction link would be created to serve Monard and Kilbarry.
Mr Lucey said that 3,800 of the houses could be built without the need for a northern ring road and these would be constructed within the next 15-20 years, by which time that road should be built.
He said the council had also increased housing density on the site and addressed potential flooding issues, which had also been sought by An Bord Pleanála.
Mr Lucey said construction of the proposed northern relief road “may be down the road a bit, but has the backing of the NRA,” which has guaranteed it will provide a junction link from it to the Monard area.
He said the plan should be approved by councillors and resubmitted to the planning appeals board.
“I strongly recommend this goes ahead. It’s part of a long-term strategy for the region,” Mr Lucey added.
Nicholas Mansergh, the council’s senior planner, said it would probably take 25 years to fully develop Monard to its maximum capacity.
He said the council could strongly argue its case for the revised plan at an oral hearing.
“We have to accommodate the increasing birth rate in the region. We have been having discussions with Iarnród Éireann about stations at Blarney and Monard,” Mr Mansergh said “The railway line is already there and the key to making it work. It took €70m to restore the Midleton line and this is there for free. We shouldn’t walk away from the assets we’ve got.”
While Cllr Tim Lombard (FG) said Monard was key to the region’s development going forward, Cllr Kevin Conway (Ind), who lives in Blarney, said there were a number of reasons why Monard shouldn’t be built, especially because of its steep topography and the possibility that it could cause flooding to adjoining communities.