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From ‘Commuter Town to Estuary Town’ – Carrigaline at Heart of Cork Harbour Economy Strategy

Writes Ciaran Dineen

Last week Cork County Council launched their new regional economic concept for the Cork Harbour Economy (CHE), with local towns such as Passage West, Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy all named checked as key players for the future strategic vision of the CHE.

The CHE first appeared in the new draft County Development Plan 2022-2028, which notes that there is a need to “recognise Cork Harbour as a unique and strategic asset both nationally and internationally and promote the development of the Cork Harbour Economy as a key driver of economic growth at a metropolitan, county, regional, national and international level”.

According to the Development Plan, which is currently open for public consultation, the Cork Harbour Area/Cork Harbour Economy is a nationally scaled entity and includes five County Metropolitan Towns (Cobh, Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Passage West/Glenbrook/Monkstown and Carrigaline), as well as four no. Strategic Employment Locations (Ringaskiddy, Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Whitegate/Aghada.

There was a very local feel to the event launch, which took place via a public Webinar last Thursday morning, with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath and Director of Roads and Transport for Cork County Council, Pádraig Barrett, both speaking on the opportunities that the Harbour Area presents for the long-term growth and prosperity of the region.

Chief Executive, Tim Lucey, informed attendees that in 2018, Cork County Council approached a number of consultants from abroad in order to get “an international perspective” on the potential for Cork Harbour, working with partners such as TUM International, AHP Solutions Berlin and InSite Bavaria, who all focus on implementing strategic planning and economic policies.

Presenting the vision for the CHE, the Chief Executive noted targets outlined as part of the National Planning Framework for Ireland 2040, with the Cork Harbour Area expected to see its population, employment and housing experience significant growth of +49%, +72% and +51% respectively. The CHE strategy has made some bold claims, suggesting that the GDP of the area could grow from the current €4.5bn to as much as €12.4bn by 2040 if it makes the most of its unique situation, developing into an international spatial economic powerhouse.

Director of Services for Planning, Michael Lynch, from a local point of view, was perhaps the most interesting speaker to hear from, as he emphasised plans and proposals for towns such as Carrigaline, and Ringaskiddy.

Referring to recently published proposals for the Carrigaline TPREP strategy, Lynch commented that “Carrigaline will be transformed from the town centre, with the inner relief road offering opportunities for brownfield redevelopment, for which we already have ambitious and transformative pre-planning discussions….we estimate €25m in projects will link homes to schools, town centre to jobs, targeting a modal shift. Carrigaline will transform from the ‘commuter town’ to the ‘Estuary town’.”

Such a strong statement with a catchy soundbite indicating the transformation of Carrigaline into the ‘Estuary town’, could bode well for a number of potential local-based projects, such as the recently reported opportunity to open up the Waterfront for amenities. It is perhaps the strongest indication yet that Cork County Council views Carrigaline as the new capital of South Cork, with major scope for growth and development but with a clear focus on the need to improve placemaking and the liveability of the town.

Next up was Carrigaline man, Pádraig Barrett, who outlined plans for ongoing and future transport and road networks throughout the Cork Harbour Area. Commenting on the M28 that will connect Ringakiddy to Cork, the Director for Roads and Transport stated that the €220m scheme “is the last piece of the jigsaw that will see the ports of Belfast, Dublin and Cork all connected to the trans-European network. The project will provide opportunities for sustainable travel. As a result of the Supreme Court decision, the acquisition of the land necessary has commenced through the CPO process and the next move on this project will be the enabling works, which will include fencing, service diversions and archaeology in the coming months”.

While it will take some time to digest the launch of the CHE as we await for further information about the spatial economic strategy, the initial reaction to it locally has been positive and was welcomed by Minister Michael McGrath, who suggested that the plans could provide the vision to unlock the ‘untapped’ potential of the Harbour Area. Some concerns have however, been raised, with Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) making her feelings known, saying that “we need a special local area plan for Cork Harbour with Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) at its core so all users, including the birds, can live happy lives. I have asked for this over and over again. ICZM is critical to delivering the CHE plan.”

Cllr D’Alton was also worried over the omission of Passage West from the discussion in relation to public realm and the quality of living environments, highlighting that while comments were made for improvements in places like Carrigaline, Midleton and Cobh, nothing had been mentioned about Passage West.

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