Unelected official’s city development plan 2022-2028

Nov 14, 2022 | Development Plans

The Cork City Development Plan (CDP) 2022-2028 has just now been ratified as the last 8 amendments voted in by the city councillors have been rejected by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) and the Minister of state Peter Burke.

It is claimed by the civil servant’s time and time again that the CDP is the elected city council member’s plan. Having attended more than 2 dozen committee meetings and having been provided with more than 5000 pages of reports along with countless phone calls and emails I can confirm that this is most certainly Not the member’s plan.

We the elected members were handed a draft plan almost 2 years ago which was produced by the civil servants. This was also advertised and put online for the public to view. We had no part in forming the draft plan prior to it been published. The plan used up almost all of the maximum allocation of lands allowable for zoning (housing) which meant any proposal from the members, or the public would be met with resistance.

Why were the elected members not included in pre-draft stage?

Every amendment went through extreme scrutiny (as it should) and in general a refusal was recommended, in one case two adjacent sites equal in size were discussed. The first proposed by the elected members which was refused and the other put forward by the officials with a recommendation to pass. The reason to refuse the first was based on the fact that it would be a stand-alone site, the fact that their site would negate that fact was omitted.

Another application was rejected based on the fact that it had no access to the site, no water supply and it is 1 km from the bus stop. That would be a correct decision except for the fact that It has access, It has water and is 550m from a bus stop. These are facts not opinions.

Another application was for less than one acre to be zoned which would enable the adjoining 150 acre plus (already zoned) to be developed and supply housing to an area in desperate need for housing. The acre is needed for access. The 150 acres will now be subject to a tax because they are zoned and not developed. It beggars’ belief.

Some Reports to the council in my opinion were contradictory i.e.. the same reason to approve one site was used to refuse others. In essence because the totality of desired zoning was full, valid individual applications were rejected.

The plan rightly takes into account the future needs of the city over the next 6 years and indeed it is plan 1 of 3 to take us to 2040. Capacity is based on data and agreed predictions from 3 years ago. Circumstances have changed significantly since those predictions were made, the country has 40,000 more employment immigrants and 60,000 refugees, It is reasonable to accept that up to 10,000 of those will be in Cork. The republics second city.

The recent rejection of some of those amendments were based on absolute inaccuracies.

The appeal process from mid-summer to end of September allowed for those applicants and councillors to reiterate their cases. To clarify all 8 were voted in by the majority of the council and in some cases unanimously.

I appealed through the correct channels and in time. I learnt that the OPR can request an independent Inspector to review both sides and fact check the information. The Council, the public and the minister cannot call for an inspector. I and others appealed to the OPR to appointment an independent Inspector. He refused.

The minister must go by the official reports and if not would have to present to a Dail committee to justify his overruling. In the absence of an independent report this is almost impossible to do.

Why did the OPR refuse to appoint an independent Inspector? What possible downside was there? God forbid it would have contracted the civil servant’s reports.

For the record, none of the appeals for housing zoning are in my district, the Southeast local area. They are all in the northeast and northwest local areas. Both Areas are recognised as the areas for growth over the next 20 years. Since the appeal process started the newly proposed rail network has been published (northwest) and the location of the new hospital on the grounds of St. Stephens (northeast)have been announced.

We all want a plan that is deliverable, we all want a plan that will provide sufficient lands for homes, we all want a plan that will be kind to the environment, we all want a plan that will have enough services. For those that will read the plan, you will see a glossy plan full of aspirations, what you wont see is parts of our city planned for housing that it desperately needs.

As the saying goes “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.