Cork GAA ignored pre-planning advice before lodging unsuccessful Páirc Uí Chaoimh application 

Cork City Council had recommended they take part in another pre-planning meeting due to the scale of the project 
Cork GAA ignored pre-planning advice before lodging unsuccessful Páirc Uí Chaoimh application 

Artist's rendering of the planned improvements to the public realm at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

CORK GAA ignored advice from Cork City Council to engage in an additional pre-planning meeting before lodging its unsuccessful planning application to deliver “an iconic sporting venue”, in which it has already invested €100m.

The Council confirmed to the Irish Examiner that due to the scale of the redevelopment being proposed, it had advised Páirc Uí Chaoimh to hold a third pre-planning meeting prior to lodging its application in July 2021.

The Council also felt that an additional meeting would be beneficial because otherwise a year-and-a-half would have elapsed between the last pre-planning meeting and the time the application was lodged, a timeframe City Hall felt was too long.

The planning files show just two pre-planning meetings took place, the first on November 12, 2019 and the second on January 20, 2020. The planning application was lodged 18 months later, on July 23, 2021.

Developer Michael O’Flynn, who is director of Páirc Uí Chaoimh Stadium Board, represented the GAA at both pre-planning meetings.

When the Irish Examiner asked the Council about the limited amount of pre-planning consultations with Páirc Uí Chaoimh given the scale of the proposal, a spokesperson said while the “onus is on the applicant to engage as they see fit”, it had been recommended that they engage in another pre-planning meeting.

“It was recommended to the applicant that a pre-planning meeting be held in advance of lodging the application in July 2021, notwithstanding this the applicant proceeded to lodge the application,” the spokesperson said.

Asked why the Council made this recommendation, the spokesperson said: “Given the scale of the proposed development and the timeframe since the pre-planning meeting, it was considered appropriate to advise the applicant of the opportunity to engage in a pre-planning meeting in advance of lodging the planning application”.

The spokesperson confirmed this advice “was given to the developer over a phonecall”.

When the Irish Examiner asked Mr O’Flynn, as stadium board lead, why they had not acted on the City Council’s advice, the developer said he was “surprised” that the Council had commented on the matter as the planning application remained “live”.

“I’m surprised with the comments from City Hall. I have to say I’m really surprised that there was any comment passed on a live application that is currently in the appeal period.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to comment, other than to say that we did have pre-planning application discussions and there were several consultations between our professional team and the various departments [in City Hall].” The decision by the City Council to reject Cork GAA’s proposals for the redevelopment of the stadium represents a major setback for the sporting body and the stadium development board, who claim that serious safety issues and infrastructural deficits remain - despite having already invested c€100m in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2017.

Last month Cork GAA and the stadium board issued a statement expressing “surprise and extreme disappointed” that their planning application had been rejected, saying they had submitted it “in good faith, following extensive pre-planning consultations with Cork City Council”.

They appeared to criticise City Hall when they said they had expected a request for further information from the planning department given the size and scale of what was being proposed but that “no request was forthcoming”.

The application included proposals for the internal reorganization of spaces within the south stand, along with a new tourist attraction (a new GAA museum/exhibition centre), enhanced conference and hospitality facilities, including a new café and stadium tour route, a new children’s playground at the Atlantic Pond and external works at the city and Blackrock end entrances “to enhance” its appearance and “dramatically improve its arrival presence and experience”. However the most controversial part of the application involved proposals around the use of public land for car-parking - with a new public car park proposed for the southern side of the stadium, accessed via Monahan Road, and separate public parking area at the city end entrance. In its application, Páirc Uí Chaoimh said as the car parks would be for use by the public “they are not considered a material contravention of the relevant public open space zoning objective in the Cork City Development Plan 2015”.

However City Hall’s senior planner disagreed, saying it would materially convene the public open space objective and that it would endanger public safety by reason of traffic hazard. She also said it would “severely” limit the Council’s ability to deliver a large iconic public park as set out in the Marina Park Masterplan by “severing” Phase 1, which is almost completed, from the remainder of the park. Moreover the proposed carpark was within an area identified as flood storage in the masterplan and would have a detrimental effect on available flood storage volumes. The planning official also pointed out that as the site was within an area identified as flood storage, a Flood Impact Assessment should have been included with the planning application, and it was not. The issue of flooding had been raised by City Hall at the first pre-planning meeting. The the minutes of the November 2019 meeting record that Senior Executive Parks Engineer Liam Casey advised that flood storage “had to be addressed in the first instance” and that Marina Park was “primarily a flood reserve first and a park second”.

Concerns “in relation to car parking on park lands” were raised at the second pre-planning meeting in January 2020.

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