A major loan provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) will enable Cork County Council to kickstart €250m of projects it hopes to complete within the next eight to 10 years.
The €35m loan agreement between the EIB and the local authority was signed today and the council is expecting to sign a further loan agreement, this time with the Council of Europe Development Bank for €34m next January.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey said some of the projects lined up include coastal sewerage schemes, flood defences, bypasses in Bantry and Carrigaline, upgrading Camden Fort Meagher, Spike Island and Mallow Castle, setting up business incubation units, harbour dredging and the development of Blueways.
Mr Lucey said 53 projects had been lined up under the €250m plan and also included a number of village and town renewal schemes and housing schemes.
He said county engineer, Kevin Morey, would lead a dedicated team of council staff to bring them to fruition.
Mr Lucey said the projects were vital to sustain a projected population growth of 23% by 2040.
He said talks between the EIB and council officials had been going on for nearly two years and described the loan agreement signing as "a really big day for Cork County Council".
Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Christopher O'Sullivan, outlined the reasons why the local authority was seeking loans from European banks.
"Traditional funding sources through departments and other state agencies can be intermittent and fragmented, which doesn’t readily facilitate an overall, coordinated approach to capital works," he said.
"This loan finance will be allocated to priority schemes that will make a significant contribution to sustainable growth and employment in the county," Cllr O'Sullivan said.
EIB Irish Vice-President Andrew McDowell signed the loan agreement at a special meeting in County Hall.
"Thriving local communities are key for sustainable growth and this new cooperation provides a model for successfully scaling up investment to tackle local challenges," Mr McDowell said.
He said the €35m loan represents the first-ever European Investment Bank support for social and environmental investment across County Cork and reflects the vision and ambition of the council’s Social Sustainability Programme.
"It is a pleasure to hear how this new partnership will accelerate priority investment to transform sustainable transport, improve flood protection and upgrade community facilities in market towns and rural villages across Ireland’s largest county," Mr McDowell said.
He said the EIB looks forward to further strengthening cooperation with local authorities across Ireland to unlock investment that improves communities and economic opportunities.
While he didn't say what interest his bank was charging the council, Mr McDowell said they "were offering very favourable borrowing terms".