Neglect of a Cork town is highlighted


One of Co Cork's main towns, Mitchelstown, has failed to make "any significant progress over the last 20 years" because of Cork County Council's failure to develop it properly, local business leaders have charged.

With 3,500 people, Mitchelstown is increasingly becoming a dormitory town for Cork City workers, although it is "a town starved of amenities, development and enterprise", according to the Mitchelstown Business Association.

Demanding "a new direction" from the county council, the association says Mitchelstown "will remain a forgotten town on the periphery of Co Cork" unless ad- hoc unsustainable development ends. Economically, it says Mitchelstown is "over-reliant" on the Dairygold co-operative, which has cut jobs in recent years and transferred some operations to Mallow, Dublin and elsewhere.

The association's intervention comes in the wake of the publication of a 10-year development strategy by the Cork County Development Board and during preparations for a new county development plan.

The association, which has sent its report to the Minister for the Environment, Mr Cullen, and others, says: "The dominance of the dairy industry within Mitchelstown has masked the potential of other emerging sectors. Agriculture is not likely to be a driver of economic growth and development in the short to medium term. Industrial diversification is urgent and vital to the economic sustainability of Mitchelstown."

Under the National Development Plan, high-speed Internet broadband "will be up and running" in the neighbouring towns of Fermoy, Charleville and Mallow two to three years ahead of Mitchelstown. "The town is therefore placed in a disadvantaged position in competing for new technology industry, knowledge-based industry and services," the business association complains.

Charleville in addition was granted special development zone status, which allows for the rapid development of land by the State, local authorities or development agencies.

The lack of a local council also hinders Mitchelstown's development. "There is no focused and co-ordinated approach to the development and enhancement of Mitchelstown for the next 10 to 20 years."

Recent progress, the association adds, has been driven by voluntary organisations.

"These volunteers cannot solely be expected to manage, oversee and drive the development of Mitchelstown. Why should it be a fight or a constant battle for the people of Mitchelstown to receive their fair share in the future development plans of their county and their country?"

Cork County Council has indicated that it may even be difficult to get funding for a cultural, economic and social development plan for the future of the north Cork town.

Despite a hinterland population of 32,500 people, Mitchelstown does not have a leisure centre, though locals have collected €1.5 million to build one, with other monies due once Tesco opens up a supermarket alongside.

However, supporting funds from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism have not materialised, while the county council has not gone ahead with the plan to build a new car park in the town.

Public transport to and from Cork city and Fermoy ends at 6.30 p.m.

"It is a fact that Mitchelstown citizens have to drive considerable distances to other towns just to try and enjoy basic leisure pursuits. It appears that migrant workers, such as the Brazilians, Lithuanians and Latvians - even though only here for two years - are already disillusioned and frustrated in our town," the report notes.

"Like others, they have nowhere to go after their day's work to exercise, to relax, to unwind and to participate in other activities other than drinking in pubs."

Calling for proper accommodation for Travellers, the association adds that some of the existing caravan settlements around Mitchelstown had been left in place for years "with no attempt to move them on or provide a permanent solution".