News » Archived News 2007

Address by Mr. Joe Gavin, Cork City Manager at Cork Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing, 26th April, 2007

I last addressed a Chamber Breakfast Briefing in January 2002. It might be useful at the outset to revisit some of the topics covered and see what has happened in the intervening five years before going on to touch on some emerging issues.

Public Realm

In 2002 I spoke about the need to deal with the physical fabric of the public realm in the city centre which was in need of major upgrading. I spoke about the need in particular to refurbish St. Patrick’s Street. Since 2002 measures taken by the City Council have transformed the centre of Cork. St. Patrick’s Street has been totally made over with new paving, public lighting and street furniture. New plazas have been developed and the street is now more pedestrian friendly. The quality of its public realm is a match for any European city. In recent times, St. Patrick’s Street has been twice voted best shopping street in Ireland.

Oliver Plunkett Street has been fully refurbished and pedestrianised from 11.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily. It provides a totally new shopping experience. The Grand Parade will be fully refurbished by the Autumn of this year. Shandon and Blackpool have also seen major investment by the City Council in their public realm. The next areas to be addressed will be Cornmarket Street and Parnell Place.

Office Development

In 2002 I referred to the absence of third generation offices in the city and for the need to review the office development policy in the Development Plan. The City Council expanded the zones for offices and actively promoted provision of new office development to meet modern requirements.

The level of new office provision in the city over the past five years has been unprecedented.  Between January 2002 and January 2007 a total of 730,000 sq.ft. of new office accommodation was completed.  A further 310,000 sq.ft. was under construction in January 2007,  planning permission had been granted for a further 650,000 sq.ft. yet to commence and there were applications on hand for an additional 250,000 sq.ft.

There is now need again to review our office policy as there remain restrictions on locations where general offices should be allowed.  Over the next number of weeks proposals will be formulated to bring forward an appropriate amendment to the Development Plan.


In 2002 I drew attention to the need to strengthen the retail function of the centre city in order for it to maintain its role as the regions prime retail area. I indicated that market research had shown that there was demand for an additional 500,000 sq.ft. of retail space exclusive of what was proposed for Mahon. The City Council specifically designated areas for comparison retail in Cornmarket Street, Academy Street, Bowling Green and Emmet Place. It prepared development briefs for these areas and promoted them for retail development.

The private sector responded positively. Substantial sites were assembled and development proposals prepared. In the central area 120,000 sq.ft. is under construction at Cornmarket Street and due for completion this Autumn. Dunnes have secured planning permission for 100,000 sq.ft. and are planning to commence construction next month. O’Callaghan Properties are awaiting the outcome of a planning appeal against a decision of the City Council to grant permission. O’Callaghan Properties are ready and anxious to commence construction of 140,000 sq.ft. in the Academy Street, Bowling Green, Emmet Place quarter. There are planning applications on hand for a further 190,000 sq.ft. of retail in the central area.

In the entire city area between January 2002 and January 2007 a total of 400,000 sq.ft. of retail was completed, with a further 300,000 sq.ft. under construction, 250,000 sq.ft. granted permission and not yet commenced and applications on hand for a further 190,000 sq.ft.

Within the next three years the retail accommodation in the centre city will have increased by 60% from 1 million sq.ft. to 1.6million sq.ft.

I might mention here that I regard the appeals made against the Academy Street development on the grounds that business might be disrupted during the construction period as misguided. It will not be possible to construct 140,000 sq.ft. of badly needed retail accommodation in the centre city without causing some short-term disruption. The value of this new development to the wellbeing of the city should be given proper recognition.

Urban Tourism

In 2002 I spoke about the potential which the city had to develop urban tourism and the opportunity which securing the designation of European Capital of Culture would provide to raise the profile of the city. As we know Cork was successful in its bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2005 and it celebrated the year in a comprehensive and positive way. Independent research has shown that the designation was both successful on the economic and cultural fronts. In 2005 the city attracted an additional one million visitors and generated an estimated extra €90m for the local economy. Benefits from the year continue.

Tourism attractions have been enhanced over the last five years with the extension by the City Council of the City Museum, the opening of Life Time Lab, the New Archives and the New Visitor Centre at Blackrock Castle which will open next month. The investment in these facilities amounted to €25m. The Glucksman Gallery provided by UCC is also an additional attraction.

Between 2002 and 2007 an additional 320 hotel bedrooms were provided in the city and a further 100 are under construction. These figures do not include Jurys which saw 160 beds replaced. We have also seen new hotels constructed at Little Island, Fota and at the Airport. The provision of an Indoor Events Centre/Conference Centre with a capacity of 2,000 increasing to accommodate up to 5,000 for concerts is of critical importance to the city. This was made very evident in 2005. In order to speed up the provision of such a centre the City Council recently offered to take an equity stake of 25% up to a maximum of €12m in a Conference Centre. Ideally the City Council would like to see the facility located within two to three kilometres of the city centre. The closing date for submissions is June.

A new company “Cork Marketing Partnership” has been established to promote tourism and conference business for Cork. The Board of the Company comprises members from The City and County Councils, The Chamber of Commerce, The Hotels Federation, The Port of Cork, Cork Airport Authority, Cork Business Association and Fáilte Ireland South West.

Shandon has the capacity to become an important tourist centre based on the theme of heritage and culture. The City Council has assembled a large site adjacent to the Butter Museum and is exploring possibilities for a major visitor attraction. Any new project will incorporate an extended Butter Museum which is authentic and relevant. The City Council recently acquired “Ceol” which is a permanent exhibition relating to the history of Irish Music and Dance. It may be possible to locate this in Shandon.

The Council’s acquisition of St. Luke’s Church and the plans to have it and Christ Church developed as Music and Visual Arts Centres will add further attraction for cultural visitors.

Transportation & Telecommunications

In 2002 I made reference to the plan which the City Council had prepared to build a metropolitan duct and fibre system throughout the city. This plan was fully implemented at a cost of €10m and the city now has a full broadband network. The take up of this new facility to date has been disappointing. We will continue with efforts to encourage its use. A partnership between the City Council, Enterprise Ireland and the Private Sector saw the provision of the Webworks at City Hall which will provide support for the I.T. industry.

On the transportation front the City Council has provided six green routes or bus priority corridors. It provided a Park and Ride facility at Blackash which has proved to be an outstanding success. Further such facilities are being planned.

On the rail front our efforts to secure the re-opening of the Midleton Railway have been successful and we can look forward to the facility being operational by 2008. We also can look forward to seeing a new railway station opening in Kilbarry next year. The need for this infrastructure was identified in C.A.S.P. and its provision is tangible evidence of the value of C.A.S.P. and the co-ordinated and forward planning which it represents.

The Docklands

The Docklands comprises 400 acres of land with four kilometres of waterfront all within a 20 minute walk from City Hall. The overall vision for the regenerated Docklands was set out in the Docklands Strategy Study commissioned by the Council. It proposed a vibrant mixed use quarter developed to the highest standards and to be in effect an easterly extension of the city centre. There is potential for seven million sq.ft. of non residential development and for 10,000 units of residential development. This would provide for a resident population of 20,000 and provide for 25,000 jobs.

Since the strategic vision was launched in 2002, significant interest has been generated in the Docklands area.

This interest has seen property values in the Docklands rocket in the past five years. Development sites have been assembled by the private sector and property owners are actively looking at ways of developing their lands.

I set up a team which is headed up by Pat Ledwidge, Director of Services, to specifically facilitate and support the redevelopment of the Docklands. Pat and his team have been working in close consultation with all stakeholders in preparing a masterplan and in identifying measures which need to be taken. A committee of City Council has been established to help with policy development.

Achievements to date include:

  • Local Area Plans

The North Docks Local Area Plan was completed in late 2005.

  • Cork Docklands Economic Study

The Cork Docklands Economic Study was completed in December 2006. It provides an overview of the economic potential of the Cork Docklands and indicates how this project will assist in the achievement of local, regional and national objectives. This study also identifies targets for Foreign Direct Investment and other opportunities in the residential, commercial and tourism/leisure areas.

  • Showgrounds C.P.O.

The C.P.O. on the Cork Showgrounds and adjacent lands was confirmed by An Bord Pleanála on February 10th, 2007. The City Council will commence detailed planning of Marina Park shortly and plan to take possession of these lands in late 2007.

  • Contaminated Lands Study

The study has now been completed.  The contamination levels are such that they can be dealt with in a reasonable manner.

  • Business and Implementation Plan

One of the Economic Study recommendations was the preparation of a Business and Implementation Plan for Docklands. Work on this plan has commenced and Deloitte has been appointed to assist in its preparation.

  • Stakeholders

A number of Stakeholder groups have been established over the past year. These consist of:

· Major Landowners/Developers

· General Stakeholders

· Publicly funded Service Providers

· Arts and Culture Interest

In addition contact is maintained with Government Departments and Public Agencies.

  • Cork Docklands National Forum

An Taoiseach recently announced the establishment of the Cork Docklands National Forum. This body will co-ordinate responses at Government Department level to issues arising from the development of the Cork Docklands and support Cork City Council in the implementation of its plans.

This approach was recommended in the Cork Docklands Economic Study.

  • Funding

The process of identifying key projects that will benefit from funding by the National Development Plan 2006-2013 has commenced. Funding needs will be clarified when the South Dock Local Area Plan is published.

The priority projects to be funded by the Gateway Fund will be set out once the relevant procedures are issued by the Department of Environment, Heritage & Local Government.

  • Designation

In October 2006 the European Union allowed the application of State Aid to companies setting up in Cork Docklands following a submission by the Irish Government which was based on a proposal prepared by Cork City Council.

This may apply to all companies up to the end of 2008 and to small and medium size enterprises (less than 250 employees) to the end of 2013.

  • Tidal Flooding Study – Lee Catchment Flood Risk and Management Study (Lee CFRAM)

This study is progressing and the consultants have been focusing on the issues for Docklands.

  • Water Street Bridge

A feasibility study has been prepared for Water Street Bridge.

The Local Area Plan for the South Docklands will be ready for publication next month. This will set out clear guidelines for the nature of development to be permitted and will identify public infrastructure requirements including social infrastructure such as schools. This plan will indicate the need for two new bridges – one at Water Street and the second at the Skew Bridge connecting the Docklands to Lower Glanmire Road. We have taken a policy decision that both bridges will be opening bridges to ensure that the maritime access to the heart of the city continues. Future maritime traffic, as the main port activities relocate, may be leisure related but it is considered important that the harbour which adds so much to the heritage and character of Cork is maintained intact.

New development in the Docklands area to date include the Clarion Hotel and office development at Lapp’s Quay, the Webworks at Albert Quay and office development on Monahan Road which houses CITCO. While there is need to provide significant infrastructure to service the regeneration of the Docklands there are large areas available for immediate development fully serviced with infrastructure. These lands include the former timber yard at Water Street which has planning permission for 212 apartments.

They include Horgan’s Quay and Kent Station where there is potential for significant residential and mixed development. At Albert Quay there are significant sites which can be immediately developed.

As we move into the heart of the Docklands there are again large tracts which can be developed and need not wait for the provision of further infrastructure.

At the eastern end of the Docklands in the vicinity of Páirc Uí Chaoimh there are 30 acres of land. Two ownerships are involved. They have come together in a joint venture and have a target of lodging a planning application for development by July. Their development proposals include for office, residential and retail development and a 200 bedroom hotel.

The development planned extends to 2.3 million sq.ft. and will represent the single largest development in the city. They plan to commence construction work once planning permission is secured. This joint venture project involving Howard Holdings and Tedcastles is about showing initiative, vision, creativity, risk-taking and making things happen. The City Council has plans to develop the adjacent Showgrounds comprising 22 acres into Marina Park which will be a major recreation resource for the entire city.

A number of particular activities in the Docklands will require to be relocated in the future if the full potential of the Docklands is to be realised. These include 3 SEVESO sites. It is the intention of the City Council to seek the application of a special tax incentive package to encourage and facilitate the re-location of these activities.

Attracting third-level educational establishments to the Docklands is regarded as important and again the City Council will seek support from Government either by way of direct funding or tax incentive to encourage such development.

In addition to the development of the Showgrounds we see the provision of a new bridge as being an important catalyst for Docklands regeneration. We would like to see major private sector involvement and funding on the bridge project to which we will give high priority.

The vast bulk of land in the Docklands is owned by the private sector and as such private sector investment is central to the development of the Docklands.

These lands are held by a small number of owners and it is important that there should be co-operation between them to ensure co-ordinated development. I am very pleased with the level of involvement and co-operation which has been shown by all of the land owners so far.

The City Council for its part has set out a clear planning framework, it has commissioned various studies which will be available to developers, it will secure the provision of necessary public infrastructure and it will champion and support the Docklands regeneration. As a planning authority, a housing authority, a roads authority and a sanitary authority the City Council is in a position to contribute in a major way to the successful redevelopment of Cork’s Docklands.

The involvement of the I.D.A. and Enterprise Ireland will be critical in assisting with the attraction of employment opportunities to the Docklands to meet the target of 25,000 jobs.

Over the past five years we have seen the centre of our city transformed. Over the next five years the regeneration of our Docklands will take centre stage. This most exciting project will take ten to fifteen years to complete and will require the full support of the City Council, the Private Sector, the Government and relevant State Departments and Agencies.

We can look forward with confidence to a new era of development in the life of the city as we roll out the regeneration of our Docklands.

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