A controversial €6m road upgrade to help open Cork’s sprawling south docklands for more development has been given the green light despite claims the planning process was flawed.
City councillors voted 24-5 to approve the Part 8 planning report on the Docklands to City Centre Road Network Scheme, which will include extensive work on Victoria Road and the Old Blackrock Road, including contra-flow bus and cycle lanes.
Detailed design work will now start on the scheme which will also include work on Albert Quay, as well as a pontoon with floating garden on the river, a new cantilevered section at the corner of Éamon de Valera Bridge and Albert Quay East, public seating and walkways, and a bike-share kiosk.
Councillors were told that there were a total of 227 observations from the public on the Part 8, with 16 modifications made to the design, as a result. The vote to approve the scheme followed the rejection by councillors of a Green Party amendment which sought to decouple elements of flood defence from the overall scheme and run a separate Part 8 planning process on that element.
The concerns arose after campaigners Save Cork City, which opposes the Office of Public Works’ €150m flood defence scheme for the city, criticised the way the flood defence elements in the dockland road upgrade scheme were advertised.
Green Cllr Dan Boyle said the overall road upgrade was largely beneficial for the city, but claimed the public consultation process was flawed when the proposed flood defences were not mentioned in the public advertisement of the Part 8, and were only mentioned in an environmental impact statement.
He suggested the main road scheme be approved but he called for the flood defence elements to be decoupled from it and be subject to a new Part 8, to restore public trust in the process.
However, Fine Gael Cllr Des Cahill accused the Green Party of being disingenuous and said the idea of sanctioning the scheme with one element was a bit like saying build a house without the foundations.
The city’s head of roads and transportation, Gerry O’Beirne, said the flood mitigation measures are just one part of a multi-element road upgrade to what is the largest docklands regeneration site in Europe.
He said the funding earmarked for the road project is the first State allocation to help realise the city’s long-held vision for the docklands and the city must be seen to deliver.
He described the flood mitigation measures are “simple and appropriate” and said councillors must have regard to flood risk when making such Part 8 planning decisions.
Councillors were told that while the scheme proposes to raise the existing wharf height on Albert Quay to 3.4 metres OD, quay heights on Pope’s Quay are 3.8OD, it’s 3.5OD on North Mall and 3.7OD on Merchant’s Quay.
Following a lengthy debate, councillors approved the scheme. Cllr Boyle said he was disappointed that councillors didn’t exercise one of the few powers they have — to suggest amendments to such Part 8s — to ensure transparent public consultation.
“There was no attempt to undermine here — it was to ensure we have open and transparent processes on foot of previous flaws,” he said.