Fears that Cork city expansion will result in threats to services

Proposed extension of city into areas now overseen by county council ‘excessive’

Cork Airport: would be considered part of Cork city under Mackinnon report recommendations. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

Cork Airport: would be considered part of Cork city under Mackinnon report recommendations. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

Cork County Council has warned that a proposal to extend the Cork city boundary into areas of the county is excessive and will result in a divided Cork where a weakened county council will no longer be able to sustain the provision of services to people living in more remote rural areas.

According to the council, the 116-page Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Local Government Arrangements in Cork, which proposes a near eightfold extension of Cork city that will see the city population grow by 100,000 people, represents “a missed opportunity”.

In a detailed response presented to members of Cork City Council, the county mayor, Cllr Séamus McGrath, and the Cork County Council chief executive, Tim Lucey, pointed out what they said were the many failings of the expert advisory group chaired by the former chief planner of Scotland, Jim Mackinnon.

The Mackinnon report – published by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney on Friday – recommends 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.

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.

However, the Mackinnon report recommended the retention of Passage West, Monkstown, Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy within the county council area in order to allow the greater harbour area – home to many international pharmaceutical companies – to be treated as a single economic unit.

But Cork County Council in its statement said “the proposed boundary extension is excessive and involves the city taking in areas which are rural and not city areas” and will result in an extremely strong city authority and a very weakened county authority.

Loss of income

Cork County Council said it was particularly concerned about the financial mechanism proposed in the Mackinnon report to compensate it for its loss in revenue from the areas to be transferred to the city and said the move would seriously undermine the council’s financial ability to provide services.

According to Mackinnon, Cork City Council would pay some €40 million per year to Cork County Council for a guaranteed period of 10 years with a review thereafter to compensate for the net loss in revenue streams from the areas to be transferred from the county to the city.

But Cork County Council said there was a need for much greater clarity on the financial reciprocation payment, including its duration, while the Mackinnon report made no provision for the loss of income to the county council from future substantial developments in the areas to be transferred.

Other issues related to outstanding debts in terms of commercial rates, local property taxes and development levies due to Cork County Council in the areas affected by the boundary change, as well as operational assets, land and buildings in these areas owned by Cork County Council, it said.

Cork County Council also pointed out the Mackinnon report made no reference to its own submission in which it argued for a “One Cork” approach involving a combined statutory authority but one that would allow a city council to continue with a focus solely on urban growth issues.

“One Cork would have afforded Cork a much stronger influence at a national level in terms of competing for funding infrastructure, jobs etc . It would have allowed Cork to promote itself with clarity and confidence . . . Now national government and agencies will have to deal with two Corks.”

And Cork County Council also warned that hitherto both city and county councils faced many common challenges but “with an expanded city and reduced county, the extent of commonality is diminished, thereby calling into question the likelihood of continued co-operation and collaboration”.