Stretching as far south as Ballygarvan and as far west as Ballincollig, the new Cork South-West local electoral area is, by quite a margin, the most populous constituency in the redrawn Cork City.
While the neighbouring Cork North-West is a more vast area, South-West exceeds it in terms of population by more than 7,000 people.
In fact, it’s closest challenger in this sense, Cork South-East, is still smaller by a margin of more than 4,000 people.
As such, South-West is the only city constituency to have seven seats up for grabs and the decision by two former Lord Mayors to not run again has opened things up considerably.
The population growth is primarily motivated by the addition of Ballincollig and its surrounds.
The 2016 census put the population of Ballincollig at more than 18,000 and it is growing as new housing estates and other developments come on stream.
Ovens and its approximately 2,000 residents are also coming into the city in a further population boost.
The new local electoral area stretches as far south as Cork Airport and its business park, though this is something that is far more relevant for the city’s commercial rates base than its electorate.
In September 2018, county council officials estimated that the loss in rates as a result of the transfer of land to Cork City Council could be in the region of €70m, a significant portion of which would be from Cork Airport, though it is also due to parts of Douglas, Glanmire, and other areas transferring.
While the loss would be offset by the county council no longer having to provide services to these areas, the deficit to their coffers could be in the region of €30m.
But, despite swelling in size in its western environs, the South-West area is actually losing some land to a re-drawn Cork City South-Central.
Previously, the eastern boundary of Cork City South-West was Donovan’s Road.
It included the Lough and parts of Togher, though Togher was split between South-West and South-Central. That situation remains unchanged, though there have been other adjustments.
The border will now run on Magazine Road, with areas north of the divide moving to South-Central. This includes UCC and Glasheen.
The city parts of the new South-West will include Wilton and Bishopstown, though there are significant lands beyond this to consider now too.
A large pocket of land south of the South Link has been incorporated, with an eastern border of the N27 established.
It will include Cork Airport, Curraheen, and towards Bandon Road, with its western border now the N22.
The new local electoral area will take in all of Ballincollig, stopping just short of EMC, and running back along the south of the river towards the city.
It is at this end of the new local electoral area that things have been particularly contentious.
It is a situation mirrored in Blarney, Tower, Douglas, and Glanmire, but there was vocal opposition in Ballincollig to the notion of being incorporated into the city.
Those in ‘the village’, as it is still refer red to locally, felt that there was a strong, unique identity in Ballincollig.
It is a community that has grown significantly in recent years and was viewed as essential by Cork City Council, something that was not lost on some very vocal members of Cork County Council who did all that they could to disrupt the expansion.
There were real fears to be addressed, though. In fact, some would say that there still are.
For starters, Ballincollig never had a town council and, as such, a lot of what was undertaken in the town was spurred on by local community groups.
There was concern about the funding mechanisms for these groups.
Fears about the imposition of parking charges in the town were also vocalised, with many speculating that the re-drawn boundary could impact everything from the Tidy Towns to insurance rates.
As far back as 2017, opponents of the extension were using the term ‘land grab’ to describe the proposals when it came to Ballincollig.
Fears were expressed that rates paid by Ballincollig businesses would be used to boost the city docklands and other projects.
The opposition was so fierce that senior officials in Cork City Council were motivated to speak out on several occasions in a bid to reassure residents on these and other key issues: parking rates would be unaffected, rates would be reinvested, and the town would not be forgotten amid the changes.
To date, the Ballincollig factor has dominated the debate in the South-West area, but there remain pressing issues on the city end of the new ward too.
UCC, CIT, and CUH are rapidly expanding into the heart of some long-standing communities, and there are chronic traffic issues to consider in parts of the local electoral area.