Need for negotiation stressed by Minister on Cork city boundary dispute
Hopes of resolution increase after letter from Minister to mayor of Cork County
According to county council sources, the letter from Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy suggests that there is room for negotiation on the Mackinnon report on the Cork city boundary extension. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Hopes of finding a resolution to the controversial Cork city boundary extension dispute have received a boost following a letter from Minister for Local Government, Eoghan Murphy to the mayor of Cork County which stresses the need for negotiation and agreement.
According to county council sources, the letter suggests that there is room for negotiation on the Mackinnon report on the Cork city boundary extension with the implementation oversight group appointed by the Minister adopting a more facilitative rather than a directive role in the process.
The letter from Mr Murphy marks a shift in the role envisaged for the group . It opens up the possibility of negotiation between the Cork City Council and Cork County Council on the exact location of the boundary for the city extension, say county sources.
The Mackinnon report was prepared by a group reviewing local government in Cork and chaired by former chief planner for Scotland, Jim Mackinnon. It recommended an expansion of Cork city that would see the size of the city 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 contiguous to the city such as Rochestown, Frankfield, Grange and Ballyvolane as well as surrounding satellite towns and villages such as Ballincollig, Killumney, Blarney, Glanmire, Little Island and Carrigtwohill.
However the report, which was welcomed by Cork City Council upon publication in June, provoked huge controversy in Cork County Council . Councillors warned that implementing the expansion will result in the county council losing a major section of its revenue earning base around the city.
Cork 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. This was rejected by Cork City Council which argued Mackinnon was not up for debate.
But following a two hour briefing by Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey to councillors on Thursday afternoon, a number of county council sources told The Irish Times that they believe the letter from Mr Murphy was “a game changer” and provided the basis for a compromise deal.
According to the sources, the compromise is likely to involve all the southern suburbs already offered by the county such as Rochestown, Grange and Frankfield as well as Ballyvolane on the northern edge of the city all being ceded to the urban local authority.
It is expected that the northern expansion of the city would begin at the N8 in Dunkettle and incorporate all areas to the west including Glanmire with the northern boundary being formed by the planned Northern Ring Road which is expected to run around Kilbarry, Killeens and Clogheen.
Such a boundary would mean that Blarney and Tower would remain in the county while Carrigtwohill in East Cork would also remain in the county leaving Ballincollig in the west, Little Island in the east and Cork Airport to the south the three main areas up for negotiation.
“The city are very keen to get Ballincollig because it would help them reach the magical number of 200,000 in population terms and if Ballincollig was to go in its entirety, it would be big enough to be a municipal district in its own right which might help sweeten the deal locally,” said one source.
“That would leave Little Island and Cork Airport and while Cork Airport isn’t a huge source of revenue for the county, Little Island with all its industry is a revenue rich area so there would be tough negotiations there but at least there would be negotiations so a resolution is possible.”
According to sources, the oversight group was due to report to Mr Murphy by the end of October and while a deal is unlikely to meet that deadline, agreement should be reached before the end of November as all sides recognise the need for a resolution sooner rather than later.