The Irish Farmers Association has criticised a proposal to allow Cork city expand into the county.
It says the move would have a detrimental impact on Cork County Council’s ability to deliver services to remote parts of the county.
Three senior IFA figures in Cork, Cork Central Chairman, Harold Kingston, North Cork Chairman Billy Cotter and West Cork Chairman Cornie Buckley expressed their opposition to the Mackinnon Report recommendations in a statement issued by Cork IFA.
The Mackinnon report, published by then Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Simon Coveney in June, recommended the retention of two separate local authorities for Cork city and Cork county with the city being granted an extension into county areas contiguous to the city.
Under the plan 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 form part of the Cork County Council administrative area.
"This extension will be to the detriment of rural areas, including villages and towns which need ongoing investment. The income generated through rates and local property tax would increase for the city area, at the expense of the County Council area, to the tune of over €50 million," said Cork IFA.
The expansion proposal has triggered angry exchanges between elected members of Cork City and Cork County Councils, coming as it does after a previous review, chaired by former Beamish & Crawford, MD, Alf Smiddy argued for a merger of the city and county councils in a majority report.
‘Recommended expansion of city’
That report published in 2015 was shelved and the Mackinnon review, chaired by the former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon, surprised many with its recommendation for a large expansion of the city which see the city increase in population by 100,000 to 225,000.
The exact location of the new boundary is to be decided by an Oversight Implementation Group but Cork County Council believes the Mackinnon extension recommendation would see the geographical area of Cork city increase seven fold from 37.81 sq kms to 280 sq kms.
According to the three IFA Cork chairmen, who held a press conference on the matter on Thursday, expanding the city with a resultant loss of €50 million in revenue to the county council “is unacceptable and is at odds with the Government’s aim of rural-proofing their policies”.
The three IFA Chairmen pointed out that Cork is a vast county measuring 7,500 square kms and given that some it is peripheral, sparsely populated and economically disadvantaged, services need to be guaranteed to all areas of the county.
“These include roads, housing, amenity and social investment. The provision of these services is more costly for the county area and it is vital that investment is spread out to meet the requirements of all areas.”
The IFA also pointed out that if the metropolitan area is extended, rural areas that currently benefit from the EU Leader programme will be excluded thought this has been rejected by Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald in an open letter to citizens of Cork on August 22nd.
According to the IFA, which represents some 14,000 farmers in Co Cork, other options should be explored including utilising existing vacant land within the existing city boundary and limiting an extension so as not to encroach on farmland surrounding the city.
The IFA also suggested the idea of a merger of the city and county councils as proposed in the majority Smiddy report should be re-examined and the three IFA chairmen called for “a reasonable and sensible discussion using both the Smiddy and Mackinnon reports.”
“It is clear there has not been proper consultation on this proposal. While the Smiddy report had certain recommendations, the subsequent report ..... the MacKinnon report, was one-sided and did not involve wider consultation with all of the stakeholders in the county as a whole,” the IFA said.