Cork councils meet in bid to reach deal on city boundary extension

Minister retains power to impose expansion if councillors fail to form agreement

Eoghan Murphy has retained the power to impose a boundary extension if both parties fail to reach an agreement. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Eoghan Murphy has retained the power to impose a boundary extension if both parties fail to reach an agreement. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Proximity talks between Cork City Council and Cork County Council will take place on Monday with a view to finalising agreement on the proposed Cork city boundary extension as recommended by a Local Government Review Group in June.

The meeting between the Cork City Council team, headed by chief executive officer Ann Doherty, and the county council team, headed by chief executive officer Tim Lucey, is being held under the authority of an Implementation Oversight Group appointed by Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy.

Mr Murphy has retained the power to impose a boundary extension if both parties fail to reach an agreement following negotiations on the issue which has dominated local politics in Cork for two years.

The dispute stems from a report by a Cork local government review group in Cork set up by Mr Murphy’s predecessor, Simon Coveney, which recommended an expansion of Cork city that would see its size increase seven fold and its population grow from 125,000 to 225,000.

The Mackinnon report recommended an expansion of the city to include suburbs including Rochestown, Frankfield, Grange and Ballyvolane, and satellite towns and villages such as Ballincollig, Killumney, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island and Carrigtwohill.

However the report in June, which was welcomed by the city council, provoked controversy in the county council, with councillors warning that implementing the expansion will result in the county council losing a major section of its revenue earning base.

‘Not up for debate’

The county council later responded by offering to cede land in Rochestown, Grange, Frankfield and Ballyvolane to the city while retaining Ballincollig, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island and Carrigtwohill, but this was rejected by the city council, which argued the report was not up for debate.

A map of the Cork City Council area with areas (in yellow) which Cork County Council proposed to transfer.
A map of the Cork City Council area with areas (in yellow) which Cork County Council proposed to transfer.

According to a city council source, an agreement has now been reached that Little Island, Carrigtwohill and Killumney would remain in the county, but Glanmire, Blarney/Tower, Ballincollig and Cork Airport would all be incorporated into the newly expanded city council area.

A county council source said while progress has been made in negotiations in recent weeks, no finalised deal has yet been agreed and much work remains to be done to ensure that any deal does not impact the county’s council’s ability to fund services.

The retention of Little Island, home to many industries, and Killumney, home to multinational giant EMC-Dell, are considered integral to Cork County Council’s commercial rate base in the South Cork division which it uses to subsidize services in the less industrial North and West divisions.

It is understood there are also concerns among elected members on Cork County Council on the implications politically for councillors in the affected areas, as many would have to transfer to the city area and contest for seats in an expanded Cork City Council.

Monday’s meeting takes place at Cork County Hall with some 10 councillors from Cork City Council, comprising mainly of party whips, and some 10 councillors from Cork County Council including members of its Corporate Policy Group involved in the proximity talks with the negotiating teams.

If an agreement is reached and a deal done to the satisfaction of the Chairman of the Implementation Oversight Group, former chairman of An Bord Pleanála, John O’Connor, then the agreed expansion will be first of Cork city since 1965.