I welcome the County Council’s proposals- it is a significant shift from previous thinking – it is positive to see the acknowledgement of Cork County Council of the expansion of Cork City. That message has been a long time coming.
My own personal view on their proposal that is that it is too modest – expand their proposals to the north further and south to take in the airport and Glanmire and then I would be happier in getting closer to agreement.
It is important to note that 13.2.7 on p.104 of the Mackinnon Report does allow for the two authorities to negotiate the terms of the boundary change in the first instance and to reach a fair and equitable settlement by mutual agreement as far as possible.
I think the inclusion of that line is very important to our use as well. There is nothing wrong with us coming back to them with a revised proposal. The Mackinnon Report map is also not clear in its delineated geographical detail.
I still have a lot of questions for the Implementation Oversight Group and just because this Council are now getting what we want we shouldn’t just take the first cheque that comes our way -winning a battle – doesn’t mean we have won the overall war – there are many uphill struggles to come.
Testing the Proposals:
I have a lot of concerns of having the millstone over ten years around us of the tenuous figure of half billion euros compensation package that would have to be given towards the County Council -40 million euros a year for ten years – near half a billion euros over a decade – a lifeline to keep the County Council alive -that’s a huge debt to hang over any city authority-we need to send out a strong signal that such a debt is not sustainable over 10 years.
And I do not see any movement by Central Government to suggest a contribution to the compensation package.
We should be very careful that on the basis of stubbornness and competitiveness that we get pulled into signing on that dotted line.
I have many finance questions, I need answered by the implementation oversight body.
A Strong Pitch:
I think we need a v strong convincing argument to pitch why Ballincollig and Blarney should be taken into the city – it’s something that we need to do effectively and immediately – they are possibly two of the stronger County Cork villages/towns, which have seen significant County Council investments over the years. In a sense, both towns are not broken.
Where we are clear in our language it is not a land grab- we need to be very clear about our proposals on what and how we are going to enhance an enlarged City and what are our plans for housing, transport, retail, planning, energy, environment, recreation and amenity.
I think the Council should appoint an official as Director of Local Government arrangements, whose sole purpose is constructing a narrative for expansion weaving with documents such as CASP, European second city thinking, potential European structural funding opportunities for the future to open up the region.
The Mackinnon document needs to be plugged into the submissions of the City and County Councils for the NPF around planning for the next thirty years.
Unbalanced Public Meetings:
And there is also the nature of the public meetings that are going on in the County at present.
Where I welcome an open debate, I condemn the manner of hosting public meetings where only the County side is represented and at that, many lies about the city are being presented.
I attended off my own bat the recent Ballincollig debate hosted by County Councillors there.
The top table made several sweeping statements about the city;
“Cork City is a dying a death; just look at the death of community life in Bishopstown, it will spread here to Ballincollig”
“this is a land grab, every penny of the property tax will go into Docklands”
“this is on par with Brexit and Trump as nonsense”
“pursuing retail is untenable in Cork, the city is closed for business”
“Cork City has been catapulted down a large path of decline”
“the city is a ghost town, the plague is only coming this way”
“the Mackinnon Report is worse than the dictatorship of British rule”
“Ballincollig will just become another ward of the city”
I could go on with my notes but I won’t; clearly the people of Ballincollig present at the meeting had genuine concerns about the nature of the green belt, industrial development, pay parking, public liability insurance, rate fees, maintenance of amenity areas, the social housing expansion areas
I am calling clearly for all public debates to be balanced and rhetoric and political spin to be dispanded with – So my messages this evening are that we need to have a real think about the compensation package – and the unbalanced public debate needs to end.