Minister may issue direction to Cork City Council over planning failures

The Office of the Planning Regulator said that the Cork City Development Plan “fails to implement recommendations” it had suggested.
Minister may issue direction to Cork City Council over planning failures

The matter is 'still under consideration' by the minister of State with responsibility for local government and planning Peter Burke. Picture: Mary Browne

The planning regulator has told the Government that the Cork City Development Plan, which is due to kick in today, “fails out to set out an overall strategy” for the proper planning and sustainable development of the city.

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) wrote to the Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning to request he directly order changes to the development plan, which had been agreed by councillors, including around the zoning of land in Glanmire.

Green Party city councillor Dan Boyle said that a new process may have to be undertaken to address the issues raised by the OPR.

He said that the OPR had two main areas of concern — around rezoning for development and around a retail strategy, the latter of which he described as “more resolvable”.

Green Party city councillor Dan Boyle. Picture: Denis Minihane. UCC
Green Party city councillor Dan Boyle. Picture: Denis Minihane. UCC

Mr Boyle also said that changes made to the development plan came against the advice of Cork City planners, and that it introduces a “note of uncertainty” now that matters may be put back out to public consultation.

The city council had said that the City Development Plan plan provides a vision for how Cork will be developed and improved, with a strong focus on developing in the right locations and ensuring infrastructure is adequate to serve it. It is required to create a new development plan every six years.

In May, the Irish Examiner reported that the OPR had claimed 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 OPR criticised a series of amendments 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.

It 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”.

In a letter to the Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke late last month, the OPR said that the development plan “fails to implement recommendations” it had suggested.

"The development plan has not been made in a manner consistent with and fails to implement recommendations of the office, which required specific changes to the development plan to provide for the facilitation of services for the community, in particular schools,” it stated. 

It had also recommended that the council omit 19 zoning amendments from its development plan, amounting to 64 hectares of land. It said such zoning would not adhere to guidelines around compact growth, which is building within existing cities and towns rather than greenfield areas.

'Rezoning is not required'

One area in Glanmire, comprising of five hectares and 300m west of the N8 was zoned as residential, but the OPR said it was no apparent vehicular access and the land all around was underdeveloped. It said that developing on sites such as this “has the potential to undermine the redevelopment of sites more favourable” to targets and not result in car-dependent areas.

The zoning of land in Kilcully was also criticised as it was deemed “remote from a definable urban centre and from public transport and the rezoning is not required to meet the housing allocation for Cork City”.

Zonings at Ringwood and Stoneview near Blarney were also criticised as they are “peripherally located relative to services and facilities, is not well served by public transport and cannot be easily accessed”.

The OPR said that the use of the minister’s function to direct the council to amend the plans “would be merited”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Local Government said a draft direction was issued to Cork City Council on their 2022 city development plan, further to a recommendation of the OPR last Friday. 

"There now follows a statutory process, at the end of which the regulator makes a final recommendation and the minister may then decide whether to issue a final direction. 

"The process allows for public and councillor submissions and a report from the chief executive of the city council," the spokesperson said. 

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