The Land Development Agency (LDA) is examining the mothballed former Cork Prison site’s potential to deliver housing.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act show that the LDA, the State body set up to co-ordinate the delivery of housing on State land, has engaged with the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the Department of Justice in relation to the former prison site on Rathmore Rd, which closed in 2016.
The LDA, which recently secured planning for 266 homes on the State-owned former St Kevin’s site on the Lee Rd in Cork City, has asked the IPS to provide a raft of legal documents attached to the former prison site, including title reviews, maps linked to the site, details of any wayleave rights, and for copies of any recent valuations of the site.
However, the LDA stressed that the site is just one of several State-owned landbanks in the city which are being considered.
“Our immediate priorities for Cork City are the St Kevin’s Hospital site, which recently received planning permission for 266 homes, and the development of our partnership with Cork City Council for the Cork Docklands Delivery Office,” a spokesman said.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North-Central, Thomas Gould, said if the site is deemed suitable for housing delivery, the local community must benefit beyond the provision of housing, and must be included in discussions on its future use.
“It is very important that, if the site is earmarked for development, the LDA gets the mix of tenure right here,” Mr Gould said:
“I am dealing with so many people who earn too much to qualify for social housing, but who don’t earn enough to qualify for a mortgage, and rents are sky high.
“Whatever way this former prison site may be developed, it is absolutely essential that some kind of an amenity, or a community resource, is included for the people of the local area.
“That could be a park or a playground but perhaps part of the former prison building itself could be used as a tourist attraction, or maybe we could find an imaginative way for it to be converted into a cafe or restaurant. That would be a positive for the area.”
Mr Gould made his comments following the release of documents under FOI which shows how the future of the prison site has been considered since it was mothballed in 2016 following the opening of a state-of-the-art new €42m prison complex nearby.
A meeting of the Irish Prison Services's capital strategy oversight group on March 20, 2018, was told of commitments the IPS had given to local residents in June 2015 that the facility would not be used as a prison again.
Consultants Currie and Brown also presented the meeting with a feasibility study which examined six options for the site.
These include full site clearance and the erection of a 2.4 m high fence, which would take 12 months to deliver; full site clearance and the erection of a 7.2m wall, which would also take 12 months to deliver; full site clearance for amenity or horticultural (15 months); site clearance for a surface car park (18 months); an open prison housing development, with 10 six bedroomed two-storey houses (36 months); and site clearance for a two-storey 85-cell prison block (48 months).
Cost estimates were included, but were redacted in the documents released under FOI.