In the wake of recent news from Cork County Council, announcing that it seeks to create a major strategy for the long-term development of Carrigaline, it is essential that the moment is seized given that Carrigaline is now the biggest town in the County of Cork following boundary extensions.
The 2016 census indicated that Carrigaline has a population of around 16,000, but this figure will have risen once again following the development of the new Janeville estate in North Carrigaline.
Those who live in the area would argue that such a population does not reflect the sheer number of people that either interact with or pass through the town on a daily basis, with commuter towns such as Crosshaven in particular having a strong relationship with Carrigaline.
Despite the fact that population has risen by over 1500% since 1971, the necessary planning and strategic development for the town has not followed an effective path and as a result we are now bearing the fruits of decades of neglect. Traffic congestion, housing shortages, soaring rents and crippled local businesses are the present costs of previous oversights.
Thankfully what we do have is an enormous amount of energy for change in the town, coupled with the fact that there are also some extremely effective and experienced public representatives that understand local problems and issues.
In recent years, the wheels have slowly gone into motion towards a new direction for Carrigaline and plans for a Western Relief Road and N28 Motorway will sooner rather than later become ‘shovel ready’. Sceptics will argue, with some validity, that building roads does not solve the problem and many could perhaps agree that tough decisions may have to be made in the future that discourages car usage and promotes the use of public transport.
We have seen a successful movement in this line of thinking already, following the announcement that the 220 and 220x buses would operate at the highest frequency in the country, while routes connecting Carrigaline with Ballygarvan and Passage are also on the agenda.
It may displease some but the other viable option is to introduce parking restrictions, paid parking and perhaps ambitiously a one-way system that could make the village centre a more attractive place, encouraging ‘foot’ traffic as opposed to car. Such evils may be necessary if they are to combat what has become a reality in Carrigaline, that local people tend to buy, dine and socialise elsewhere, so finding the right balance is key.
Councillors turn into lobbyists in these incidences as they convey the experiences they and those whom they represent deal with on a daily basis. When developers put the cart before the horse, public reps are always playing catch up, for example see the lack of a safe pedestrian footpath on the Ferney Road despite the construction of a new school.
While work is soon to begin on the Ferney Road, in future it is vital that Cork County Council (CCC) and planners put in place the adequate facilities required to deal with new developments. The first opportunity that will show whether this lesson has been learned should be evident in the coming weeks when the detailed plan emerges for design change to Ashgrove Roundabout, Ballinrea Road and Cork Road, in response to the construction of the three-school complex in North Carrigaline.
Councillors have only had a brief glimpse at the proposals, which are not yet available for public consumption, but once again they will play a vital role in conveying the importance of any alterations that may be necessary, and are already arguing that Ballinrea Cross should be part of the same design. We just have to hope that CCC will be open and transparent when making changes, which became a recent issue over an alteration of design change to the Shannonpark Roundabout, which enraged public reps and local residents.
With County Councillors arriving back in September for their monthly Municipal District meetings, there will be a great appetite to move things swiftly forward and strike while the iron is hot. Councillor Seámus McGrath just last week welcomed Cork County Council’s decision to launch a tendering process in order to conduct a Transportation and Public Realm Enhancement Plan (TPREP) for the town. This is an extremely positive step in the right direction towards the sprawl repair of Carrigaline.
While plans are already in the pipeline include turning the front part of the Owenabue Car Park into an attractive public space besides the river. Recently Carrigaline resident and UCC lecturer, Dr. Frank Crowley, contended that the carpark itself was “destroying the heart of the town” upon hearing that additional spaces are set to be installed in the near-future. Responding to this Cllr McGrath concurred that Carrigaline badly needed a heart to the town and agreed that it needed to “progress as soon as possible”.
Speaking about the Carrigaline TPREP, Dr. Crowley went on to argue some of the topics that need to be raised. “It is necessary for the multi-disciplinary consultancy team to engage early with the community and explain why changes need to happen. For instance, why the street should be ‘one-way’? why we need a plaza and why the Owenabue Car Park is the ideal spot? Why parking needs to be removed in some places and added in others? On why the community needs segregated cycle lanes? And on why we need pedestrian priority from the playground/community area to the businesses on Main Street. These answers are not clear to everyone, hence there needs to be a clear, informed and educated discussion from the outset so that political interests, vested interests and ill-informed opinions are removed from the equation. The council have the expertise to radically improve the viability and quality of life of towns. That is clear with the examples of Clonakilty and Ballincollig.”
Alas the window of opportunity is open for Carrigaline, and it is vital that we see progression before it shuts. This could well be the answer to the long-term strategy and development of the town, which may in fact be the pathway for decades to come, it is simply now or never.