The provision of student accommodation in Cork is a key focus of talks between city planners and the city's third-level institutions as work starts of the drafting of a new city development plan.
The city council said the series of engagements are “background research” ahead of the formal preparation later this year of a draft development plan - the first to include the expanded city region.
The talks come against the backdrop of a significant deficit in student bed provision in the city, and in the context of ambitious growth targets for the expanded city where the population is expected to grow by some 120,000 people by 2040, and where student numbers are rising.
In a recent tweet, UCC President, Patrick O’Shea, said the city must address the growth.
“Third-level institutions have been a major feature of Cork for close to two centuries. With several tens of thousands of third-level students, isn’t it time Cork took being a university city seriously?” he wrote.
Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer said serious consideration must now be given to the development of a large-scale student town in the city. There are examples at the National University of Galway (NUIG) or on the University of Limerick campus, he said.
While construction work on hundreds of new student apartments is underway on sites across Cork city and suburbs, including the BAM project on South Main Street, a UCC project on the former Crow’s Nest site, and on a former packing company site next to CIT in Bishopstown, Mr Buttimer said the city is playing “catch-up”.
“This new city development plan will, in my view, be as important as the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Study. It will set the tone for development for the next generation,” he said. “We have seen how some communities near third-level institutions have been decimated by the development of piece-meal student accommodation. The new development plan must take cognisance of the real need for a student town, or student centres, in appropriate locations. I would suggest sites in the docklands be considered.
“But it can’t just be about buildings or creating a ghetto of students. Such a development will need a suite of supports like access to shops and services, public transport connections, bike lanes.”
Ferghal Reidy, the city council’s director of Strategic and Economic Development, said the meetings with representatives of the third-level sector are on a range of topics and are at an early stage.
“The meetings will lead to a better understanding of development objectives so that they can be considered as part of the economic and spatial planning of the city," he said.
Consultation with other stakeholders will continue this year before a draft plan is published before the end of the year.
The new plan, due to come into effect in 2022, will guide development in the city up to 2028.