Mapping out the vision for Cork county over the next seven years

Cork County Council has unveiled an ambitious draft plan for the future of the county's towns, villages, and rural areas up to 2028, covering areas such as population growth, employment, housing, and community development.
Mapping out the vision for Cork county over the next seven years

Pictures: Denis Minihane

Cork County Council has unveiled an ambitious draft plan for the future of the county's towns, villages, and rural areas up to 2028, covering areas such as population growth, employment, housing, and community development.

The plan provides a vision for towns, villages, and rural areas across the county over the next seven years. It provides for a population growth of 61,000 people and the delivery of almost 30,000 housing units across the county.

The council states that this population growth and necessary housing units will be delivered across the whole of Co Cork, at appropriate locations in county metropolitan Cork, the ring and county towns, key villages, villages, and rural areas to deliver sustainable growth in rural and urban communities.

The county council’s plan also sets out to deliver employment-led growth by delivering 36,500 jobs in rural and urban areas with more than 2,000ha of employment lands identified in the region.

In north Cork, the council’s plan provides for significant population and housing growth across its key towns and villages, including Fermoy, Mitchelstown, and Mallow.

The council highlighted a need for such towns to become centres of employment themselves instead of relying on residents commuting to Cork City.

The council also highlighted the importance of a north Cork tourism package to attract more tourism to the region.

It also set out plans for key towns in West Cork, including Clonakilty, Bantry, and Skibbereen. The need for resident-owned housing in these towns was raised in the plan.

The council also highlighted the important role of these towns in terms of tourism in the region and the need to ensure pedestrian-friendly environments by providing pedestrian areas, street furniture and tackling any dereliction or vacancy in the area.

The ambitious plan also highlighted the roles of key villages in attracting new residents, investment and business.

Key villages in north Cork such as Rathcormac, Kilworth, and Doneraile have been targeted for growth in terms of population, housing, and economy.

Similarly, in West Cork, the county council has laid out plans for such growth in Rosscarbery, Baltimore and the twin villages of Ballineen and Enniskeane, with a focus on tourism.

Skibbereen

Population: This plan sets an overall population target of 3,856 for Skibbereen, which represents a projected population increase of 1,078 people.

Housing: To accommodate this growth, an additional 309 new housing units will be required with 248 housing units delivered on residentially zoned land and the balance of 61 delivered within the built footprint of the town. A number of options are highlighted for delivering housing within the built footprint of the town, including regeneration, potential infill sites, and ‘living over the shop’ opportunities.

Urban design: The planned expansion will require a new structure of streets and spaces to open up further land for development. Traffic levels and reducing vehicle speeds within the town will be managed by ensuring that the road infrastructure meets the needs of residents by providing a safe and high-quality pedestrian and cycle environment. There are development opportunities on the southern bank of the Ilen River. The former Convent of Mercy site has been identified as a significant strategic opportunity for the future development to the northeast of the town centre.

Employment and economy: With its recent improvements to water and sanitary infrastructure and developing digital economy, Skibbereen will be in a key position to take advantage of future opportunities. The development of an economic growth centre to the northeast of the town is a key element in the proposed employment land-use strategy. The importance of Skibbereen continuing to embrace the digital age is also emphasised, particularly in the form of the Ludgate Hub, which has a long-term objective to create 500 direct jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs via a sustainable digital economy for Skibbereen and the wider West Cork area.

Tourism: A known hub for tourism in the region, Skibbereen has potential to develop its tourism offering even further. There are further opportunities to develop the cultural quarter. There are plans to encourage the installation of public art in various forms and media throughout the town. Meanwhile, the newly developed ‘Ilen River Blue Way’, a water activity trail from Skibbereen to Baltimore, is seen as a significant added attraction for tourists. Finally, there is a need for an additional hotel in the town.

Town centre and retail: A town centre study in 2012 concluded that Skibbereen has a high percentage of independent units, dereliction in some central areas and a higher-than-normal level of overall vacancy in the retail core. The plan will aim to develop and improve the focus of the town towards the River Ilen.

Social and community development: There is a lack of outdoor and indoor facilities in the town, and the provision of outdoor shared-use basketball courts would be a valuable resource. There are a lack of playgrounds, and Cork County Council has committed to providing a second playground for the town. An amenity walk on the southern bank of the Ilen river is also considered, as well as a combined cycleway and walkway on its northern bank and a walkway extending from the Gortnaclohy link road to beyond the town boundary to Russagh Mill.

Fermoy

Population: The plan provides for the town to grow to 8,894 people by 2028, representing growth of 2,309 people on Census 2016 figures.

Housing: In order to accommodate this level of population growth, an additional 804 housing units will be required, with 601 housing units delivered on residentially zoned land. The balance of 203 will be delivered within the built footprint of the town. In Fermoy, approximately 203 units can readily be provided within the existing built footprint of the town using infill sites, opportunity sites, reuse of vacant stock, green field sites, and upper floors of shops.

Urban design: There are a number of regeneration sites in Fermoy suitable for redevelopment, including the former mart site east of the town centre. There is also a site on Courthouse Road opposite the Courthouse, the Old Loreto Convent, and the former ESB premises on McCurtain Street. There is an infill site on Bridge Street; and the site comprising the former Fermoy railway station and railway yard. This site could also be combined with the Topaz petrol station and Fermoy Nissan site fronting onto Dublin Road to the east, giving a large development site, potentially suitable for a hotel, with frontage onto the Dublin Road (R639). In some cases, works would have to be undertaken to ensure pipework is extended to zoned lands before development takes place. In terms of wastewater treatment, there are capacity constraints and there is insufficient headroom at this time to cater for all the planned growth for the period to 2028. The wastewater treatment plant needs to be upgraded and Fermoy is on the Irish Water Investment Plan.

Employment and economy:

Census 2016 identified that more than half of Fermoy’s residents travel outside the area for work. The employment strategy should focus on local catchment employment, which would give more people the opportunity to work locally. Expansion of the economic base of the town in terms of employment, retail and other services is required to underpin the sustainable growth of Fermoy and to maintain the quality of life offer necessary for it to compete with other locations. The plan also makes provision for a strong supply of employment land, with good access to the M8 within the town, zoning approximately 61.8 hectares of land for employment uses. Also earmarked as a site for potential development is the Cork Livestock Mart, which is located 5km outside Fermoy town.

Tourism: The historic fabric and setting of Fermoy, combined with its location on the River Blackwater, is an internationally renowned angling destination. It offers significant tourism potential which should be promoted further as part of a wider North Cork tourism package. Fermoy would benefit from a hotel or other accommodation services, which it has been without since the closure of The Grand Hotel in 2019, and a number of suitable sites within the town are identified. The cultural offering of nearby Castlehyde Estate may have potential as a recreational destination and could potentially expand the tourism accommodation offering in the north Cork area.

Town centre and retail: The plan for Fermoy aims to promote the consolidation and strengthening of the existing town centre, and reinforces the principal retail area in Fermoy south of the river. Where possible, the council said it will support creative approaches to the rehabilitation, extension or merger of historic buildings within the town centre for retail and mixed-uses subject to best practice conservation methods. It is hoped to retain residential uses in the town centre, as well as ensuring that the main focus for further retail development should be in Fermoy town centre. Land has been identified, south of the river and to the east of and adjoining the existing town centre, to facilitate expansion of the town centre over time. An urban framework plan is required for multiple brownfield blocks to the east of the town which can deliver compact growth. 

Social and community development: There are currently five primary schools and three secondary schools in Fermoy. A population growth will lead to increased demand for school places in the area. The Department of Education, meanwhile, says the population growth target for Fermoy would require the delivery of an eight-class primary school. Provision has been made within the residential zoning to allow for the construction of a 16-class school in the area.

Clonakilty

Population: Clonakilty has a population target of 6,385 for 2028, representing growth of 1,793 people on 2016 census figures.

Housing: An additional 828 net new housing units will be required in the town. Of the 828 new housing units to be provided over the plan period, 748 housing units can be delivered on residentially zoned land and the balance of 80 units can be delivered within the built footprint of the town. The urban design strategy for Clonakilty aims to establish a strong positive identity for the town. The Convent of Mercy is a potential regeneration site for a mixture of office use, community, residential use, or tourism-related uses.

Urban design: The plan would support the implementation of the Clonakilty Traffic and Transportation Study, which was finalised in 2011. This will include the designation of pedestrian-friendly streets in the town centre as well as a strategy to improve traffic circulation in the town and facilities for cyclists in the town centre.

Employment and economy: The importance of the role to be played by Clonakilty as a key town in the employment hierarchy is emphasised. The ratio of jobs to resident workers is 1.291, one of the highest in the county. The plan has identified land in Clonakilty which will offer a greater range of sites for employment uses, and could also facilitate the relocation of existing town centre industrial uses. This would, in turn, provide opportunity sites within the town centre for mixed-use development. The importance of the development of the western relief road is also highlighted, as well as the possible future expansion of the West Cork Business and Technology Park at Shannonvale.

Tourism: Clonakilty is highlighted as a tourism hotspot of West Cork, and there is even greater potential to develop cycling tourism in the area. In that regard, the development of a greenway from Shannonvale to Clonakilty is supported, as is the development of greenway trails and pedestrian access from Clonakilty Community Hospital to the Clonakilty Technology Park; the West Cork Model Railway Village to Inchydoney Beach; and the Supervalu roundabout to Ring village.

Town centre and retail: The new public square at the junction of Ashe St and Astna St has resulted in a vibrant public space that places the pedestrian at its core. Further improvements could be made, particularly within the retail core to enhance the public space for pedestrians. Public realm improvements will need to be targeted towards Astna St, Seymour St, Clarke St, College Rd, and Long Quay should the town centre expand to the south-east of the town.

Social and community development: The scale of growth predicted for Clonakilty in this plan will place significant new demands on social and community infrastructure such as schools, recreational facilities, healthcare facilities, and more. It is important to ensure that new community infrastructure is delivered in a timely fashion as the town grows so that it continues to perform. Significant investment will be required in community infrastructure to meet the needs of the growing population. The council said it will continue to work closely with the Department of Education requirements in the future in order to meet projected population growth.

Mallow

Population: There is a target of 16,046 for Mallow’s population by 2028, representing a growth of more than 3,500 people since 2016.

Housing: To accommodate this level of population growth, an additional 1,428 housing units will be required. As part of the council’s commitment to deliver compact growth within the town, this plan proposes that 1,191 housing units be delivered on residentially zoned land, with the balance of 237 to be delivered within the built footprint of the town.

Urban design: A number of possible regeneration sites within the town have been identified, including Thomas Davis St, the junction of Mill St and Ballydaheen Rd, and lands to the east and west on Ballydaheen Rd.

In addition to the regeneration sites, two significant opportunity sites have also been identified in the west-end quarter of the town. The most southerly opportunity site could be developed as an important landmark gateway into the town. Cork County Council said it was moving ahead with plans to create a well-connected, high-quality public amenity and tourist destination by connecting the existing gardens and historic landscape at Mallow Castle with the main public spaces at Mallow Town Park and Spa House Park. There are also plans to upgrade the town swimming pool and build a 400m outdoor running track at Davis college.

The Blackwater Amenity Corridor, which has seen development in recent years, is a potential site for further amenity development. The water main network in Mallow needs to be upgraded and extended to cater for new development. 

Employment and economy: Mallow is the second-largest employment centre in the county after Little Island. Key employment sectors should be targeted including logistics and transport, business and technology, engineering and food processing, and general industry. Mallow needs to build on its importance as a food production centre, while also diversifying its employment base to reduce its reliance on people commuting to Cork City for work.

Tourism: The development of the tourism, cultural and retail sectors in Mallow will be encouraged to further improve the experience for those who visit the town. The enhancement of Mallow Castle, the spa and the Blackwater Amenity Corridor has the potential to be a catalyst in this regard. There is the need for water-based activities on the Blackwater River. A recent feasibility study suggested a possible 39km greenway from Mallow to Ballyduff. 

Town centre and retail: High volumes of traffic on the N72 route running through the eastern end of the town centre are one of Mallow’s main constraints. The delivery of the Mallow relief road, and the M20 in the longer term, is essential to address this issue. There are plans to address vacancy in the town after a recent study found 84 vacant units.

Social and community development: The Department of Education previously identified a need for three additional primary schools and two additional post-primary schools to cater for the planned levels of growth in the town of Mallow. A primary school has since been constructed at Castlelands. Over the life of the plan, the council said it would liaise with the department to identify suitable sites for the additional schools. There is an opportunity to further expand the suite of third-level options within the town, including a possible outreach campus associated with the Munster Technological University.

Tomorrow: Bantry, Mitchelstown, Carrigaline, and Cobh

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