Planning permission has been granted for a near €40m RDS-style indoor exhibition and sports centre on the western outskirts of Cork city.
But planners insist that the proposed Munster Agricultural Society (MAS) venue, earmarked for a portion of its vast site in Curraheen just south of the N40 Ballincollig bypass, cannot be used as an examinations hall. They said they are not satisfied that the applicant adequately demonstrated to the planning authority the traffic impacts of such an educational use at this time.
And while the MAS previously stated that they do not intend to stage concerts at the venue, the second of 42 conditions attached to the grant of planning specifically states: “In the interests of clarity the development shall not be used as an examination hall or for public concerts or entertainment events.”
The MAS welcomed the planning green light and said it now intends to pursue substantial government funding to build it. MAS director, Gerard Murphy, said: “This has been a long-held ambition of ours and we have been quite methodical in how we’ve gone about it. We have spent about €3m on the site already. We are now preparing an economic application to government for financial support. We hope to make our submission within months.
"We are simply trying to restore to Cork something it had in the last century and to develop something that many groups in the region accept there is a clear need for. We are not trying to compete with other conference centres or venues. We will be leaving the concerts to the concert experts. But Dublin has CityWest and Simmons Court. This will be like a Rebel County version of the RDS.”
The MAS applied to Cork County Council last summer for permission to build the two-storey facility overlooking its existing “show fields” on the western portion of its 48-acre Curraheen site, home to Cork Summer Show.
It includes a large exhibition hall, which can be divided into three smaller spaces, capable of hosting trade shows and indoor sports such as basketball and ice hockey. The venue includes tiered seating, a restaurant and lounge with an outdoor terrace, office space and four full-squad dressing rooms. It also includes a storage building to the west, a marshalling yard between the two buildings, a car park with electric vehicle charging points, bike parking, a new bus stop and shelter on Curraheen Road, and some road upgrades.
While the site has since become part of the city following the boundary extension, responsibility for the planning decision remained with county planners.
A number of local residents made submissions, citing concerns about the safety of access to the venue, about the impact of traffic on the area’s already under-pressure local roads, development in the green belt, and possible environmental impacts on the Curraheen River.
In its submission, Cork City Council said notwithstanding MAS’s stated intention of not competing with other entertainment venues, it had concerns the project could undermine its proposed South Main St events centre and the Opera House, describing the scale of the MAS project as “excessive considering the rural context” of the site and the limited accessibility to public transport and for walking and cycling.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland also flagged concerns about the impact of "occasional seasonal events" at the venue on the capacity, safety or operational efficiency of the N40.