Metropolitan Cork has capacity to grow to population of 500,000

Housing and infrastructure needs must be met if area is to reach potential, briefing told

 Cork city: Critical mass is  key to maximising future economic growth of metropolitan area, according to  Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey. Photograph:  Denis Scannell/Cork City Views

Cork city: Critical mass is key to maximising future economic growth of metropolitan area, according to Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey. Photograph: Denis Scannell/Cork City Views

 

Metropolitan Cork’s population could grow to 500,000 if it can meet its housing and infrastructure needs over the next 30 years, according to the chief executive of Cork County Council.

Tim Lucey told a breakfast briefing of business and political leaders that the Cork metropolitan area, encompassing Cork city and surrounding satellite towns such as Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Glanmire, Carrigtwohill and Midleton, has the potential to become a major economic driver within Ireland.

The Cork metropolitan area had a recorded population off 296,000 in 2010, which is s expected to grow by 32 per cent by 2022 to 381,500. This would make it bigger than the projected targets over the same period for Galway, Limerick/Shannon and Waterford combined, said Mr Lucey.

“Critical mass is the key to maximising future economic growth and metropolitan Cork can and should grow to 500,000 plus with targeted growth. Our message is that the only way to grow another European region of scale is to focus on maximising the potential of metropolitan Cork,” he said.

Mr Lucey said metropolitan Cork was well-positioned to achieve this development with a recent Eurostat report finding annual output per employee in the Cork region was €105,000, higher than the City of London (€104,000) and Dublin (€96,000).

Future development

However, Mr Lucey stressed that provision of infrastructure to open up major landbanks to facilitate housing construction would be critical to the future development of metropolitan Cork over the next 30 years as the region seeks to achieve a 20 per cent share of national population growth.

He pointed to the dramatic growth of housing provision within Cork over the last 20 years due to the delivery of transport and other infrastructure, particularly opening up landbanks within the county including those on the fringes of the city, as offering a template for the future.

From 1970 to 2015, some 3,507 houses were completed on average each year. However, between 1995 and 2015, some 4,647 houses were completed each year, with housing completions in the county accounting for 3,778 of these and the housing completions in the city accounting for 870 of them.

However, for metropolitan Cork to achieve its growth targets, some 27,235 housing units will be required over the next ten years; only 4,326 of these could currently be provided with the amount of land that is currently zoned for housing with the necessary infrastructure in place.

Residential use

“These 4,326 units on zoned land with the necessary infrastructure in place is sufficient for just 1½ years at normal building rates; if we have to deliver housing units in metropolitan Cork at the rate of 2,800 units per annum, that supply will only last 18 months,” he said.

Mr Lucey said Cork County Council had sufficient land zoned for residential use – more than 1,200 hectares – in the right places, such as along rail lines, but the council didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to open them up for development by builders.

It was critical that the council was successful in its application for €33 million from the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund. If it was, with a further €10 million from its own coffers, it would allow it to leverage a further €66 million in loans from the NTMA’s Irish Strategic Investment Fund.

This funding is crucial as the council estimated that with infrastructure investment of €42.4 million between 2017 and 2019, it could facilitate the building of 1,100 units by 2019 and open lands in Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Carrigtwohill, Glanmire and Midleton to yield another 4,284 units after that.