Developers to pay Cork City €250k for 'worthless land' to facilitate Railway Gardens plan

Decision follows heated debate in the wake of the recent Sextant site controversy 
Developers to pay Cork City €250k for 'worthless land' to facilitate Railway Gardens plan

Cork City Council has agreed to sell a strip of land to the developers of the proposed Railway Gardens 17-storey apartment block. Picture: Meitheal Architects

Developers with planning for a 17-storey apartment project in Cork City are set to pay €250,000 for a strip of “worthless land” following a decision by the city's councillors last night.

They voted 24-6 in favour of disposing to Seamus Scally and Evelyn Scally the 256.5 sq m strip of land on the South Link Rd, which runs parallel to a site where the pair secured planning from An Bord Pleanála in late 2019 for the 17-storey 111-unit Railway Gardens strategic housing development (SHD) scheme.

The vote followed a lengthy and, at times, heated debate about whether the council should dispose of land to facilitate an apartment project just a few weeks after the JCD Group scrapped their 25-storey residential tower project on the nearby Sextant site because it was not financially viable.

Opposition to 'speculative move'

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan branded the attempt to acquire the strip of land "a speculative move" on the part of the Scallys.

“I don’t think Cork City Council should be facilitating speculation solely on the basis that we got a good price for it,” she said.

She was supported by councillor Lorna Bogue and Green Party councillors Dan Boyle and Colette Finn.

“The same economic problems exist here as apply to the Sextant site,” Ms Bogue said. "This is a speculative thing."

Mr Boyle said only 19% of SHD planning permissions have begun construction and that, in Cork, only student apartment-focused SHD projects are underway.

Worker’s Party councillor Ted Tynan said the council should acquire the site by means of a compulsory purchase order, and build good quality, public homes there.

Contrasts with Sextant site

However, assistant chief executive, Brian Geaney, said the Scallys' development site enjoys some economic advantages over the Sextant site.

He said their project does not include two-storey basement parking, that it enjoys favourable ground conditions, and is being delivered with the cooperation of a neighbouring site owner, which all combine to reduce preliminary construction costs. He also said there are increased costs for building above 20 stories.

“We need housing, all types of housing," Mr Geaney said.  "If councillors agree to this disposal, we will get 11 units for social and affordable housing. That doesn’t preclude the city from getting more. It is my opinion that this will be constructed,” he said.

Independent councillors Ken O’Flynn, Mick Finn, and Kieran McCarthy were among those to support the disposal.

Sale is a 'no-brainer'

“If we don’t put this through, we’ll lose €250,000 that could be spent in our wards,” Mr O’Flynn said.

Mr McCarthy said he would support the disposal if the proceeds could be ringfenced to fund improvements in the area.

Fine Gael councillor Shane O’Callaghan described the disposal as a “no-brainer” in the context of a housing crisis.

“We’re being offered €250,000 for a strip of land that would otherwise be worthless or worth a fraction of it,” he said: 

Those objecting are often the ones who shout loudest about the lack of housing. 

Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin said he was bemused with the objections to the disposal.

“It’s a strip of land that has no value to anybody except to the developer,” he said.

Councillors were told that detailed design work is already underway on the project, which will be just 10m shorter than the Elysian.

The developer has described the project as “unashamedly pedestrian-focused”. 

It includes 239 bicycle spaces and just five car parking spaces — three disabled spaces and two for service vehicles.

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