Cork County Council has been instructed to make a number of controversial alterations to its County Development Plan (2022-2028) in Carrigtwohill, Bantry, and Fermoy by Peter Burke, the Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning.
Mr Burke has backed objections made by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) to parts of the council’s blueprint for future development.
He has directed the council to reintroduce high-density housing zoning in tracts of land in Carrigtwohill and knocked on the head a housing project planned for Bantry, saying that the land identified for it should be reverted to agricultural zoning.
In addition, Mr Burke has directed the council not to rezone some green belt land on the southside of Fermoy, near Corrin, for industrial development.
Meanwhile, in the same area, Mr Burke has also ruled against council-backed plans for the expansion of Cork Mart's existing facilities and the creation of an NCT centre on its site.
Carrigtwohill-based Fine Gael councillor Anthony Barry said he is very unhappy with the directive to create higher density housing there, claiming locals don’t want it and there’s a lack of social infrastructure to make it sustainable.
“At present, we have planning applications in the pipeline for around 1,000 housing units in Carrigtwohill, most of which are one and two-bed. We’re not building a family-friendly community. It will turn it into a commuter ghetto with nobody there during the day,” Mr Barry said.
He said he understands the need for more use of the railway line connecting it with Midleton and Cork City, but while high-density building is suitable for the city it’s not for Carrigtwohill.
“Developers are also telling me that it is not financially viable for them to build high density. We lack such things as a hotel, swimming pool, and a library. I have seen no plans for the development of these,” he added.
Mr Barry criticised the OPR for “micro-managing” decisions made by people on the ground who know what’s best for their areas. He said this “has led to an emasculated local government".
Bantry-based Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick Gerard Murphy agreed with his sentiments and said he is terribly disappointed with the decision not to zone land in his town for housing.
“We'd hoped to get up to 40 affordable houses built on that land. They're badly needed. The only houses being built in Bantry at the moment are social ones,” he said.
Fermoy-based Fianna Fail councillor Frank O’Flynn said the company which runs NCT centres had identified Fermoy as a site for one. People living in the area currently travel to Charleville or Little Island for tests.
“This is very disappointing as is the decision not to allow the industrial centre. We have existing businesses that wanted to expand in it and there were two large companies from outside the area which wanted to locate there. It would have brought much-needed construction jobs and the creation of several new jobs when finished. It's an absolute disgrace it has been turned down,” Mr O’Flynn said.
Independent councillor Alan Coleman, who lives in South Cork, which hasn't been affected by the decisions, also criticised the directive.
"The minister ran with the OPR's recommendations on everything. People on the ground know what's best for the future of their areas. It's very disappointing," he said.