The author of a review of local government arrangements in Cork has defended his group's decision to allow a major expansion of the city which will see its population grow to more than 250,000 and its territory expand approximately eight times from its current size of almost 40 square kilometres.
Cork County Council warned that the decision by the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork to recommend a major extension of the city boundary to include county towns like Ballincollig, Blarney and Carrigtwohill would lead to a weakened county council.
And in detailed response signed by Mayor of Cork County, Cllr Seamus McGrath and Cork County Council CEO, Tim Lucey, the county council observed that "the proposed boundary extension is excessive and involves the city taking in areas which are rural and not city areas".
The report recommended Cork city would expand to include Douglas, Donnybrook, Grange, Frankfield, Rochestown, Cork Airport, Ballincollig, Tower, Blarney, Rathpeacon, Glanmire, Little Island and Carrigtwohill which currently all fall within the Cork County Council administrative area.
But the chair of the Expert of the Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork, former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon anticipated that questions would be raised about the extent of the expansion or extension to the boundary that his group was recommending
While most commentators were not surprised that an extension of the city would incorporate built up areas of Douglas, Donnybrook, Grange, Frankfield and Rochestown all contiguous to the city, the inclusion of Ballincollig, Blarney and Carrigtwohill in such a proposed expansion surprised many.
The extension of the city area to the western extremity of Ballincollig – some 10kms from the city centre – and to the eastern end of Carrigtwohill – some 16kms from the city centre – will result in the growth of Cork into an oval-shaped urban area running east-west between the hills.
Mr Mackinnon sought to explain the rationale for such a large extension in a letter to former Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney on May 16th, 2017, after Mr Coveney raised questions regarding the actual physical size of the expansion of Cork city.
Mr Mackinnon explained that the group wanted to ensure that key urban parts of the immediate hinterland of Cork city should form part of the new City Council area while areas of a more rural character and the harbour area should remain within the county council area.
With regard to Ballincollig, Mr Mackinnon pointed out that the population of the town has expanded from just 5,169 in 1976 to 18,621 in 2016 and of the 6,753 strong workforce in the Ballincollig Electoral Area, 5,487 or 81.2pc of them work in the current Cork city area.
He also pointed out that high density development of Ballincollig town centre reflects a more urban development pattern as compared to county towns while the expansion of Ballincollig aims to facilitate a east-west rapid transit corridor for Cork city.
With regard to Blarney and Carrigtwohil, Mr Mackinnon pointed out that some 62.5 per cent of the total workforce in Blarney work in Cork city and the equivalent figure for Carrigtwohill is 58.7 per cent resulting in strong commuting patterns from both towns into Cork city.
“Thus the group feel that there are compelling ground based on both housing density and commuting patterns for considering towns like Ballincollig, Blarney and Carrigtwohill as forming an integral de facto urbanised city area,” he said.
Mr Mackinnon reiterated in his letter to Mr Coveney that the group "strongly feel that the greater harbour area (Passage West, Monkstown, Ringaskiddy and Carrigaline) needs to be treated as a single economic unit and for this reason, should remain within the county council administrative area."