Walk in Passage West Ends At Derelict Quay
Writes Leo McMahon
‘This area has the potential to be the jewel in the crown of Passage West town centre’, said Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) at the monthly meeting of Carrigaline-Ballincollig Municipal District (MD) when calling on Cork County Council to purchase properties on Railway Street with a view to tackling dereliction in the Steampacket Quay area and at the same time extend and enhance the town’s waterside amenity frontage.
‘The railway line between Hop Island and Passage West is probably one of the most popular public amenities on the south side of Cork City, yet there is no natural end to the walkway. It leads the user down Railway Quay and abandons at Fr. O’Flynn Park. The natural end should be between the Steampacket House apartments and the pontoon, leading into Penny’s Dock, where the Watchhouse (customs) was located in the 19th century,’ she stated.
‘Passage West Tidy Towns recognised this a few years ago when they applied for funding from the county council to rehabilitate a neglected area of Penny’s Dock. The hope was that as users of the walkway were naturally led into the town centre, commercial opportunities would arise and businesses in the town would benefit.
‘Steampacket Quay runs between Fr. O’Flynn Park and Penny’s Dock. It is absolutely and utterly derelict. It has been for as long as I have lived in Passage West. It’s a mix of low quality semi-abandoned industrial units, a semi-abandoned yard and heaps of soil and other materials dumped along the collapsing quay wall at the water’s edge. Steampacket Quay is a continuation of Railway Street, one is at right angles to the other. I think it is accurate to say that there isn’t a single surviving business on Railway Street. The dirt and gloom defies the attractive architecture and many of the buildings are empty,’ said Cllr D’Alton.
‘It was not always like this. Before 1830, the only way passengers and cargoes could be discharged from ships to the Passage West shores was by rowing boat. Then in the mid-1830s, the St. George Steam Packet Company commissioned the distinguished architect, George Pain, to design a new stone quay. Both George Pain and his brother, James, had come from London to Ireland to work, their finer designs including Dromoland Castle, the Courthouse in Cork and Holy Trinity Church. Steampacket Quay was opened in June 1836. Ships could be brought right alongside it, even at the lowest ebb tide and it was the first quay of its kind in Cork Harbour.
‘Much of the dereliction on Steampacket Quay and Railway Street was to have been incorporated into Howard Holding’s proposed redevelopment. That did not happen and now, after many years, NAMA has advertised three building lots on Railway Street as being for sale. I have spoken to the executive about this area and these buildings before, both on and off site, and to the Minister about them. This area has the potential to be the jewel in the crown of Passage West town centre but that is most unlikely to ever be achieved without the helping hand of the county council so I ask for your support in asking that the County Council would purchase these buildings,’ added Cllr D’Alton in moving her motion on this.
Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) spoke in support and concurred that the area in question was ‘not pretty’ and certainly needed attention as part of the MD’s and before that the former town council’s effort to tackle dereliction.
MD officer Mr Kevin O’Regan said that on looking at NAMA’s website on the day of the meeting, the properties referred to in Passage West by Cllr D’Alton were not for sale.
The council had been in touch with the receiver KPMG and got information which indicated complications, including title, in the event of a sale to the council. It was his understanding the preference would be to sell in one lot.
‘This is the cornerstone of the town centre and the council’s help will be needed on this,’ stressed Cllr D’Alton. She asked the council to contact KPMG with regard to trying to resolve the matter by way of purchase.
Mr O’Regan said that even if the council was to consider purchase, having vacant possession would be crucial but this was not the case at present and he believed there would be legal issues.
Cllr D’Alton proposed that the MD director be encouraged to examine the matter. This was agreed and her motion was adopted.