Cork Docklands regeneration plan aims to deliver for state

Urban Regeneration and Development Funding of €353 million is integral to plans for accommodating population of 25,000 and a workforce close to 30,000, the chief executive of Cork Chamber says

Conor Healy, chief executive of Cork Chamber: ‘This is a proportionate funding allocation that will deliver for the state, aligned with the vision set out for Cork in Project Ireland 2040 as Ireland’s fastest growing city region.’ Picture: Darragh Kane

The regeneration of Cork Docklands, the biggest and most ambitious plan of its kind in Ireland right now, received a major boost in March with the announcement of €353.4 million in government funding for the project.

The Urban Regeneration and Development Funding (URDF) announcement would be integral to the development of an area with scope to accommodate a population of 25,000 and a workforce of close 30,000, Conor Healy, the chief executive of Cork Chamber, said.

“This is a proportionate funding allocation that will deliver for the state, aligned with the vision set out for Cork in Project Ireland 2040 as Ireland’s fastest growing city region,” he said.

One of four funds established under the government’s National Development Plan, the URDF is earmarked specifically for regeneration and rejuvenation projects in cities and towns, with a particular focus on compact and sustainable development involving residential and mixed-use elements.

The €353.4 million URDF allocation for Cork Docklands would be “utterly integral” to the evolution of Cork city, Healy said.

“By building homes and businesses, cultural assets, and better public spaces within our existing urban footprint — in parallel with transport options such as walking, cycling, bus and rail — Cork will put an exemplary model of community, sustainability and resilience in place.”

Quick and efficient delivery would, however, be critical to investor confidence far beyond dockland boundaries, Healy added. “It is essential that this announcement now quickly shifts to investment on the ground and that the viability and affordability of apartments here in Cork is tackled at a policy level,” Healy said.

“Cork must deliver on its infrastructural commitments, or our global competitors will steal a march as we move on from this pandemic.” Government policy had identified Cork — through Project Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework — as a “key location for population and employment growth,” Healy said.

“This UDRF commitment is highly significant in ensuring that the necessary infrastructural mechanisms are put in place to help move that vision forward,” he said.

“Considerable public realm investment will be required in the coming years in docklands infrastructure. Bridges, public transport, wastewater facilities, and so on, will all need to be put in place to facilitate both private and public sector investment.”

A balanced approach to planning and investment would be integral to the long-term success of Cork Docklands, Healy said.

“Employment growth and office accommodation are both vital elements of this project, but so is the need to ensure that there is a sustainable mix on the ground as the development materialises over the next 20 years,” he said.

“The right balance of residential and social infrastructure will be crucial in terms of schools, further education and healthcare provision, combined with public parks — all delivering a really high quality-of-life environment. That is our ambition for Cork Docklands.”

In addition to the €353.4 million URDF funding pot announced for Cork in March, just over €46.05 million will be allocated to the redevelopment of the Grand Parade Quarter in Cork city centre, including a new library. The plan would bring “freshness and revival” to the heart of the city, Healy said.

“Allocations of €4.7 million for Mallow Town Centre Regeneration and €817,500 for Passage West-Ringaskiddy-Carrigaline Harbour Cluster are also significant for the metropolitan area,” he added.

This month’s announcement of €184 million in government funding for a new metropolitan rail network in Cork marked a major step forward in the rollout of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy, Healy said.

Published last year by the National Transport Authority, along with Cork City Council, Cork County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, CMATS provides a framework for the planning and delivery of transport infrastructure in Cork over the next two decades.

Its aim is to quadruple the number of people using public transport in Cork to 334,000 per day by 2040.

Announced earlier this month, the €184 million rail plan will fund the development of a “commuter corridor” from Mallow through Kent station in Cork city and on to Glounthaune and Midleton.

It is envisaged that the new commuter line will run through Cobh, Midleton and Mallow. Kent Station in Cork city will get a new side platform to facilitate commuter lines.

Longer term plans for stations in towns such as Tivoli, Blarney and Kilbarry are also on the cards further down the line, along with zoning for 30,000 houses beside, along or near these stations. The project is expected to be completed by 2026.

“The new metropolitan rail investment is highly significant in realising the ambitions of the CMATS plan to develop a suburban rail network as a key part of Cork’s commuter transport strategy,” Healy said.

“The redevelopment of Kent Station will facilitate true connectivity coming from Mallow, through to Midleton and on to Cobh.

“That will create a seamless commuter rail service in Cork with Kent Station as its hub. It will transform the opportunity for people from East and North Cork and the Great Island area and Cobh to fully avail of a rail transport system that is fit for purpose.”