Planning watchdog warns Cork City against building housing on 16 sites 'vulnerable' to flooding

Among the proposed zonings criticised are sites in the city centre, Tivoli, Douglas, Togher, Curraheen and Ballincollig, as well as lands adjacent to the River Lee
Planning watchdog warns Cork City against building housing on 16 sites 'vulnerable' to flooding

The Office of the Planning Regulator has criticised proposed zoning of areas such as Douglas, which are prone to flooding. Picture: Eddie O'Hare 

The State’s planning watchdog has called on Cork City Council to review its proposed zoning of 16 “vulnerable” and “highly vulnerable” sites at risk of flooding as part of a new draft development plan for the city.

The Office of the Planning Regulator claims justification tests carried out by the council for zoning lands at risk of flooding for various uses, but mostly housing, were non-compliant with ministerial guidelines.

Among the proposed zonings criticised are sites in the city centre, Tivoli, Douglas, Togher, Curraheen and Ballincollig, as well as lands adjacent to the River Lee.

Others include sites near Sunday’s Well Road, Dublin Pike and Donnybrook Hill.

In a submission on the council’s draft Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028, the OPR’s deputy regulator Anne Marie O’Connor said it was critically important that the council complied with ministerial guidelines on flood risk management.

“The need to adapt to climate change has become increasingly apparent in recent years, perhaps nowhere more so in Ireland than in Cork City, with its recurrent flooding,” said Ms O’Connor.

Cork City Council has projected the city’s population will increase by more than 49,500 over the lifetime of the plan to over 260,000 – an increase of 24% – but has not published associated housing targets.

Blarney population set to double

The population of Blarney is set to more than double, while there will be a four-fold increase in the numbers living in the docklands.

The OPR has estimated that 14,800 new housing units will be required in the city over the lifetime of the plan.

The regulator said the overall proposal to allocate 57% of population growth to the city and its suburbs and almost 42% to urban towns was reasonable.

However, it expressed concern about the high growth rate planned for the Blarney area because of the uncertainty about the delivery of key infrastructure such as the further development of Cork’s suburban rail.

Ms O’Connor pointed out there was a risk of creating further unsustainable car-based development if such infrastructure was not provided, while there were also concerns about constraints to water services in the area.

While funding for the electrification of the Cork suburban rail is being provided for under the EU Covid-19 stimulus package, Ms O’Connor said a number of other steps needed to be completed before Blarney became accessible by rail.

She noted the timetable for its delivery was “somewhat uncertain”. The OPR also called on the council to review the proposed growth for Tower, given the difficulty in accessing the area by sustainable transport modes.

Concerns were also raised by the regulator over the zoning of lands between Ballincollig and the city along the route of the proposed light rail system.

The OPR claimed rezoning lands to the east of Ballincollig and near Carrigrohane for housing was premature pending the determination of the route for light rail.

Ms O’Connor expressed concern that the proposed rezoning of lands at Glanmire, the South Link Road and Blarney Business Park as strategic employment sites had the potential to have a significant, adverse effect on the capacity of critical junctions of the national road network.

Overall, the OPR issued a total of 12 recommendations to the council which it said were related to clear breaches of legislation or national or regional planning policy.

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