The State must use the new €1.25bn Land Development Agency to finally unlock the potential of Cork’s docklands, which have capacity for some 15,000 homes.
That was the message from Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath last night as details of the agency and its target sites were announced.
The Cabinet was told yesterday that the agency believes Cork’s sprawling 300-acre docklands region has the potential to become one of the largest city regeneration programmes in Europe, with 15,000 homes and the potential to accommodate 25,000 jobs.
It has identified strategic landbanks in the north and south docks — both private and State-owned — including Irish Rail sites near Kent Station, Port of Cork lands at Tivoli, the former Ford site off Monahan Rd, which was bought from Nama by private developers recently, the ESB’s power station on the Marina, and other sites owned by Bórd na Móna and the National Oil Reserves Agency, which it believes could be used to ease the housing crisis.
The Cabinet was also told that building the Eastern Gateway bridge at Tivoli, proposed over a decade ago, is a vital piece of infrastructure required to open up the south docks for development.
Mr McGrath said: “They’ve been kicking the tyres on the docklands project for years now but have failed to provide the kind of hard money and practical government support that is really needed to kickstart what could be a really exciting urban regeneration project.
“The focus from Government has to be on delivery and this new announcement will be judged like all the other ones — by what it actually delivers on the ground.”
Cork Chamber’s director of public affairs, Thomas McHugh, said the agency will improve the viability of strategic urban landbanks in the north and south docks.
“This is a key step in realising the vision of Cork as a high-density and vibrant second city region,” he said.
“That said, Government must continue to be responsive to market conditions beyond specific sites.
“Delivery and viability across the sector must be key considerations for all Government departments.”
The agency also plans to target the former St Kevin’s asylum site on Lee Rd, which was gutted in a suspected arson attack last year.
Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Gould, who has been calling for almost a decade for the site to be used for housing, gave a cautious welcome to the move.
Hopefully this new agency will be able to put a plan in place and deliver proper infrastructure to open up this site,” he said.
“But it will need money and delivery timelines, otherwise this will be just another quango.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald said the site is perfect for residential development given its location between UCC and CIT on the southside, and the large industrial estate in Hollyhill, which includes Apple’s European headquarters.
“It will also need significant funds to address traffic and transport issues to make the development accessible and sustainable. But it will also increase the need for a northern ring road,” he said.