The State’s planning watchdog claims a revised draft development plan for Cork City will provide 40% more housing units than required by official targets due to additional rezoning of lands proposed by councillors.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has criticised a series of amendmentsl to the draft plan which it claimed has resulted in a significant increase in the lands proposed for housing, particularly on peripheral greenfield sites in the city’s hinterland.
The OPR warned that such proposals “conflict with and will undermine the highly ambitious target to deliver 65% of all new homes in the city on lands within the existing footprint of the city”.
The regulator has called on the council to omit amendments relating to certain lands in Glanmire, Kilcully, and Upper Glanmire, as well as land at Castletreasure and the Lee Road in Carrigrohane.
The revised housing supply target under the plan is now 16,236 units, and the council has also increased its population growth target to 266,902 by 2028.
However, the OPR noted the draft plan also contains a figure of 22,544 as the number of housing units that could potentially be built on lands proposed for residential development.
The OPR said this figure was 40% higher than the council’s housing supply target.
However, it claimed the issue could be addressed by omitting the amendments to rezone land on the periphery of the city.
The OPR has warned that the latest version of the Draft Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028 is providing for an “excessive” rate of growth in the population of Blarney.
It said amendments now provide for an increase of 37% in new housing units for Blarney compared to the original draft plan which would result in its population almost trebling on its 2016 levels by 2028.
The regulator said the projected rate of growth for Blarney by the council was excessive, “particularly in view of the significant wastewater infrastructure capacity constraints highlighted by Irish Water”.
It also voiced concern about a 31% increase in the housing allocations for Glanmire in the revised draft plan which would result in the area’s population growing by 72% in just over a decade.
The OPR said such a projected population increase for Glanmire was “unwarranted” in the absence of “easily accessible existing rail or proposed rail infrastructure”, even though it acknowledged the area would benefit from the proposed plans for improved bus and cycling infrastructure.
The planning watchdog criticised the decision of councillors to ignore a recommendation made by the OPR and supported by council’s chief executive, Ann Doherty, that growth in the Stoneview area of Blarney should be aligned with the level of services including water and public transport, that will be available over the lifetime of the plan.
OPR deputy regulator, Anne Marie O’Connor, said the subject lands would not be serviceable for water infrastructure before 2028 due to capacity constraints, while it was unclear if the proposed investment in railway services would be completed in the same timeframe.
The effect of a controversial amendment by councillors is to increase the area in Stoneview for housing development by 30 hectares and by another 11 hectares in Ringwood.
The regulator warned that material alterations arising from several amendments would affect the delivery of new school facilities in the Cork docklands area.
As the docklands have an important role as a large-scale regeneration project and a key enabler of future growth of Cork city, the OPR said it was crucial that facilities needed to support a sustainable community were provided for.
The Department of Education has claimed one of the amendments reduces the area of a site earmarked as necessary to accommodate new schools planned in the docklands area to such an extent it compromises its capacity to deliver even one school, let alone two schools.
The OPR also called for the omission of an amendment that would result in over 18 hectares of land being zoned for light industry uses in Rathpeacon on the outskirts of the city.
The regulator said it agreed with council chief executive Ann Doherty that the proposed rezoning would promote urban sprawl into the surrounding rural area and would set an undesirable precedent which would impact on infrastructure in the locality.
In a submission to the council, Ms O’Connor underlined how seven recommendations made on the amendments related to “serious breaches” of national and regional planning policy.