The proposed expansion of Cork city is essential if it is to develop as a metropolitan centre capable of counter balancing Dublin and Belfast, according to Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald.
The Mackinnon report on local government reform recommended a near eight-fold increase in the size of Cork city which would see its population grow immediately by 100,000 to 225,000 as it seeks to become a driver of economic growth and a counter-balance to Dublin and the east coast.
Earlier this month, Cork County Council took the surprise step of offering to cede land contiguous to the city to Cork City Council as part of a more limited expansion which would see the geographical area of the city increase by 84.5 per cent and its current population immediately increase by 31.2 per cent to 164,915.
But last night, members of Cork City Council unanimously rejected the county's offer of a more limited city boundary extension and endorsed the view of Cork City chief executive Ann Doherty that the county council's offer was contrary to the Mackinnon report.
Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald of Fianna Fail pointed out that the Mackinnon report, published in June, has been accepted by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy and that it cannot be re-written.
Cllr Fitzgerald also warned if Cork city's population is not allowed to grow to 500,000, as outlined in the MacKinnon report, it would lose competitive advantage and fall substantially behind Dublin and Belfast which are both defined as global cities.
If Cork City Council was to accept the more limited boundary extension offered by Cork County Council, the city ran the risk of going from the second city in the state to “possibly a third or fourth tier status” city, he warned.
“If we agree to a more limited boundary extension, Cork would end up one sixth smaller in size than Belfast is now. - yet Belfast intends growing its population to 427,000 by 2035,” he said, adding such a shortsighted approach would undermine Cork’s capacity to attract investment and jobs.
"The proposal put forward by Cork County Council also runs contrary to the principles underpinning MacKinnon report, to the Ministers decision to accept the report, to the terms of reference and to the appointment of the Oversight Group to oversee implementation of the expert group report."
Cllr Fitzgerald said the Mackinnon report - which was chaired by former Chief Planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon - had rightly observed that "a substantial boundary extension is the opportunity to turn rhetoric around Cork's enormous potential into reality."
"This very report warns that other city regions in Ireland are making conscious preparations to grow, develop and respond to new opportunities and could potentially challenge Cork's place as the natural counterbalance to Dublin".