One of the city’s longest serving councillors, Cllr Tim Brosnan (FF) said the city has been raising the need for a boundary extension for 20 years. “It is now a matter of importance for the Irish State,” he said.
“Dublin is choked. There must be regional development, and an expanded Cork City is key to that. It will serve as a counter-balance to the Dublin-Belfast corridor.”
City councillors gave chief executive Ann Doherty full backing after a special meeting last night to continue her engagement with the oversight group, appointed by Local Government Minister, Eoghan Murphy, to implement the large city boundary extension recommended by an expert group.
As well as recommending the retention of Cork’s two local authorities, Mackinnon recommends the first extension of the city’s boundary is more than 50 years to include areas such as Cork Airport, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, Rochestown, Ballincollig to the west, Tower, Blarney, Monard, and Rathpeacon to the north, and Glanmire, Little Island, and Carrigtwohill to the east.
If sanctioned, it would increase the city’s population by 100,000 to 225,000.
Mr Murphy has accepted the report and appointed an oversight group to implement its recommendations.
The group met for the first time on August 3. The meeting was attended by Ms Doherty and the county council’s chief executive, Tim Lucey.
But in a surprise move the following day, county councilors held a behind-closed-doors meeting and proposed a more modest city boundary expansion which excludes Blarney, Ballincollig, Little Island, Carrigtwohill, Cork Airport, and Monard.
They said the county is prepared to cede areas including Doughcloyne, Ardrostig, Frankfield, Donnybrook, Grange, Castletreasure, and Rochestown on the southside, and Kilbarry, Carhoo, Kilcully, and Ballyvolane on the northside.
This move, if sanctioned would see the city’s population increase by about a third to just over 164,000, and the geographical area of the city increase by 84.5%.
Last night, in a report to council, Ms Doherty said it was her clear understanding after the meeting of the oversight group that it would be working to implement the Mackinnon report, and that its first task would be to determine the precise boundary line.
She said the county’s proposal “runs contrary” to the Mackinnon report, and for city councillors to consider the offer, would accede to a rewriting of Mackinnon — something she said the oversight group indicated will not be entertained.
Cllr Sean Martin (FF) said the Mackinnon report is now the “only show in town”.
He said an expanded city boundary will help Cork become a “global city” and act as a development counterbalance to the Dublin-Belfast corridor.
“We have to become the definitive second city in the State. The only show in town is the Mackinnon report, and the county council will have to work with it,” he said.
Cllr John Buttimer (FG) said it is not just about a line on a map, “a land or money grab”, as has been suggested by some in the county.
“It is also about the economic viability of a strong city, about people, and the delivery of services in a strategic and coherent way,” he said.
Cllr Mick Finn (Ind) said discussions should from now on be in the context of the Mackinnon report as he called for a review mechanism of the city boundary every 15 years.
Cllr Kieran McCarthy (Ind) criticised the “lies and spin” he heard at a recent public meeting in Ballincollig on the boundary issue, and he called for an accurate and balanced public debate on the issue.
City risks falling to third or fourth tier
Cork City risks becoming a third or fourth tier city if it doesn’t secure a large boundary expansion.
In a briefing document for councillors, officials used a map to compare the city’s current boundary with Belfast’s, and overlayed it with the land offer from the county council versus the scale of the city boundary extension proposed by the MacKinnon group.
City council chief Ann Doherty said the council has always rightfully asserted that Cork has a vital national role to play as Ireland’s second city, and its potential to fill this role is highlighted by the MacKinnon report.
But she said that hinges on the city having the “capacity, authority, and governance independence” to grow and drive sustainable economic and population growth.
“Cork City is currently not acknowledged as a ‘global city’,” she said. “Belfast is so defined and therefore is at a competitive advantage relative to Cork. Belfast has a population of about 338,000 and is projected to grow by 89,000 to about 427,000 by 2035. This growth can be
comfortably accommodated within the existing development capacity available to the city, with scope for further growth for decades beyond 2035.
“In the proposal put forward by Cork County Council, the population proposed for Cork City would be no more than about 283,000 — one sixth less than the current population of Belfast.”
She added: “Cork City would be closer to Limerick in scale than to Belfast by 2035, and in that context, from a policy perspective, the city could conceivably fall from being the second city of the Republic to being a third tier/fourth tier city on the island.”