An ambitious draft development plan for Cork aims to make the city a major economic driver to counterbalance Dublin.
Billions of euro in central Government funding will be injected into housing and transport plans for the city, a move which is designed to create thousands of new jobs and homes and transform Cork into an international city of scale.
The city's new draft development plan maps out the ambitious housing and employment targets for 2022 to 2028, with this period laying down foundations for even more substantial growth over the period to 2040.
Some 20,000 new homes will be created in the city and its suburbs from 2022 to 2028, in addition to 31,000 new jobs.
Environmental targets are also crucial in the plan, with a decarbonising zone mapped out. Greenhouse gas emissions will be set targets to reduce by 7% per annum in these zones from 2021-2030, a 51% reduction over the decade.
Some €1.8bn infunding has already been ringfenced by central Government to invest in the city, and up to €3.5bn is also earmarked for the city over 20 years as part of Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS).
Creating a modern transport infrastructure in Cork City and suburbs with improved walking, cycling, bus and rail infrastructure is a key goal of the development plan.
This will contribute to the creation of a '15-minute city', where residents can access services easily within 15 minutes of their homes.
“For the first time, a single statutory development plan will encompass the city’s previous footprint, unchanged for over 50 years, along with the suburb of Douglas, and the urban towns of Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower and Glanmire and the immediate hinterland areas – the 'New City' of Cork," Ann Doherty, Chief Executive of Cork City Council, said.
"Cork is poised to be the fastest-growing city in Ireland to 2040.
"Cork’s status as an emerging international city of scale and a national driver of economic growth is, for the first time, enshrined in the Government’s National Planning Framework. In other words, Cork is a key player in the national policy framework guiding the development of Ireland over the next 20 years."
In 2016, the city's population was just over 210,000. It is expected to reach 335,000 by 2040.
Expanding the population of Cork City is vital to attract and retain talent, jobs and cultural attractions, Lord Mayor of Cork City Colm Kelleher said.
The draft Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028 aims to accommodate an additional 3,500 people in the city centre by 2028, a growth of 15% from the 2016 census.
To cope with this expected population boom, the draft development plan, called ‘Our City, Our Future’ plans to create almost 20,000 new homes by 2028.
It aims to develop 1,511 new homes next year, followed by 3,023 annually from 2023 to 2027. Some 1,512 units are to be developed in 2028.
When devising the plan, more than 100 cities were studied internationally, with lessons learned in particular from thriving cities like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Bilbao.
But harnessing Cork's unique character, natural assets and potential is key to this new development plan, Ms Doherty said.
“There is visible confidence in our city as evidenced by planned landmark projects such as the €46m Grand Parade Quarter, which is going through pubic consultation at present and the Cork City Docklands, a scheme of international significance that, as Ireland’s largest regeneration project has already received €355m from the Government’s Urban Regeneration and Development fund," she said.
Transitioning to low-carbon transport is an aim of the plan. Cork city currently has the largest electric vehicle fleet in the local authority sector and it aims to expand that fleet over the next six years.
The draft plan also estimates that some 20% of new housing should be social, affordable and cost rental housing.
Reducing car dependence is a key aim of the draft plan.
By 2040, the plan aims to facilitate a 250% increase in footfall in the city centre, 90m annual walking trips, 19.5m cycling trips, 85m bus passenger trips, 16m trips on suburban rail and 46m trips on light rail.
Cllr Colm Kelleher said: “This is the first of three critically important city developments plans for Cork. It is the first of three such plans that will provide a pathway to achieving a 50% increase in population by 2040 so that Cork grows as a city of international scale.
“This plan aims to ensure that as our population increases substantially, we become an even better place to live. It is centred around supporting housing, economic development, public realm renewal, transport, more amenity spaces and community services in existing built-up areas using the internationally-recognised 15-minute city model."
The plan supports the development of a new acute and elective hospital for Cork.
Large employment developments will be expected to provide childcare facilities under the plan.
And all new developments of more than 100 homes must factor in community infrastructure requirements so residents can be accessible to services like schools and medical centres.
Up to 19 new or expanded primary schools and up to seven new or expanded secondary schools may be needed before 2031 and Cork City Council will work with the Department of Education to develop these new schools.
Submissions are being sought from the public to influence the new development plan.
Eight weeks of public consultations have just begun and Cork City Council is calling for the people, businesses, sporting and voluntary groups of Cork to have their say on the draft plan by October 4.