Building on strong foundations to drive future growth

The Cork County Development Plan 2022-2028 brings with it exciting developments and Michael William Lynch, director of planning and development at Cork County Council, explains how it will shape up

Chief executive Tim Lucey, Michael Lynch, director of services for planning and Padraig Moore, senior planner, Cork County Council (left) examine the newly published Cork County Development Plan 2022. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney

The Cork County Development Plan 2022-2028 is full of ambition, opportunity and strategic, sustainable development. It is the culmination of a two-year statutory review process and sets out a path of progress for Cork.

The new plan streamlines planning policy in the county by replacing not just the current County Development Plan, but also the eight Municipal District Local Area Plans and the nine former Town Council Plans, resulting in 18 statutory planning documents becoming one.

The plan has been created around a county that has performed exceptionally well over the last two decades, experiencing population growth of 1.78 per cent between 1996 to 2016. The population is expected to grow even further – by 59,170 over the next six years – and we must be cognisant of this, making sure that we provide the correct conditions to support this expansion.

With a predicted jobs growth of 35,502 between 2022 and 2028, the plan has identified an employment land bank of 2,044 hectares with another 648 hectares zoned for residential and mixed use, creating a rounded approach to living and working in the county.

This plan is about preparation and continuing to develop, in a sustainable and balanced manner, a county that is full of opportunity, offering the best possible quality of life and a place for further investment.

As such, we are facing into an incredibly exciting time for Cork County as we look forward to bringing this plan to fruition. The new County Development Plan is about vision, providing policy guidance on where people will be living, working and shopping, the community facilities they will use, where they will go to school or college and how they will travel between these places.

At a time when they have never been more important, sustainable forms of transport such as walking and cycling, where practicable, come to the fore and will be prioritised.

The new plan will replace the County Development Plan 2014, along with the current Clonakilty, Cobh, Fermoy, Kinsale, Macroom, Mallow, Midleton, Skibbereen and Youghal Town Development Plans, as well as the eight Municipal District Local Area Plans made in 2017. As such this is the first consolidated plan for the entire functional area of Cork County Council. It is a singular document which brings together individual themes and locations in an unprecedented manner.

With this in mind, the plan is the first for the new administrative area of Cork County, which has been in place since May 2019.

As well as providing full alignment between countywide strategic issues and local policies, the new streamlined format enables the County Development Plan to be more accessible to the public, combining all statutory planning policy documents into one easy to navigate document.

The adoption of the Cork County Development Plan on April 25 is a testament to the determination of the elected members and executive of Cork County Council to deliver for the communities of Cork.

The plan places a particular emphasis on supporting the creation of attractive and vibrant places to live, affording people the opportunity to live closer to where they work, revitalising our towns and villages while safeguarding our environment.

This policy approach is very much in keeping with our approach to giving local articulation to government policy initiatives such as the National Planning Framework, Housing For All, Town Centres First, Town & Village Renewal and the Urban Regeneration Development Fund and the Rural Regeneration Development Fund.

We are cognisant the timely and successful implementation of the plan relies heavily on the programmed and sequenced delivery of infrastructure and in that regard greater alignment between state agency investment plans and programmes to reflect the growth ambitions of Cork County will be necessary. This is something we will be seeking to engage on further with our colleagues across government departments and state agencies.

It’s also worth highlighting how the plan was prepared during challenging times, with the Covid-19 pandemic requiring the exploration of new ways of working and consulting with members of the public and stakeholders.

This included hosting online meetings, a public webinar and facilitating online submissions. In the context of such challenging circumstances we had to innovate to respond effectively.

In fact, I think of this as one of our shining successes and a real demonstration of how local authorities, who are often not fully recognised in terms of flexibility and resilience, adapted to deliver upon a statutory requirement while grasping the opportunity to facilitate public consultation, the very essence of creation in a development plan.

There were superb levels of engagement with this plan, with three rounds of public consultation and over 3,000 submissions received.

During the pandemic we witnessed how the nature of local authority and local knowledge supported the people in Cork Co who were reliant on their council for assistance and information.

Even in a world of global information and 24-hour service, there is no substitute for local support. This was, and continues to be, particularly evident as people are spending more time at home and they come to understand more about their local community offering.

The County Development Plan is set out over six volumes and covers a range of topics including Placemaking, Housing, Marine Spatial Planning, Water Services, Energy, Transport, Green Infrastructure, Cultural Heritage, Biodiversity and Climate Change as set out in Volume One Main Policy Material.

Volume Two lists the heritage assets of the county including the Record of Protected Structures. Settlement specific information and zoning is contained in Volumes Three (North Cork), Four (South Cork) and Five (West Cork). The plan is also supported by a map browser, a user-friendly tool that displays the detailed maps of the plan and facilitates spatial analysis.

We now hope that stakeholders, communities and investors can view the Cork County Development Plan’s targets and commitments as a statement of intent. The plan shows how Cork County Council intends to build upon the strong foundations we already have in place but that we are also looking to the future to drive growth.

Full details of County Development, Map browser, supporting documents and Environmental Assessments can be found at www.corkcoco.ie/en/Cork-County-Development-Plan-2022-2028