Making Cork city ‘an even better place to live’

Cork is undergoing a major transformation to meet both current and future needs and the city council is leading the charge

“Our City, Our Future provides a transformative blueprint for Cork as the city embarks upon an exciting phase of growth and change,” chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty. Picture: Clare Keogh

The Cork City Development Plan 2022-2028 provides a framework to transform the city, said chief executive of Cork City Council, Ann Doherty.

“‘Our City, Our Future’ provides a transformative blueprint for Cork as the city embarks upon an exciting phase of growth and change,” she said.

This is the first of three critical city development plans for Cork that will provide a pathway to achieving a 50 per cent increase in population by 2040.

“This plan aims to ensure that as our population increases substantially, we become an even better place to live,” said Doherty.

“It is centred around supporting housing, economic development, public realm renewal, transport, more amenity spaces and community services in existing built-up areas, using the internationally-recognised 15-minute city model.”

Sufficient land is zoned to support housing for about 47,000 people, offering everything from suburban living to city centre housing. Cork City Council is working with developers and investors to achieve these growth objectives.

Doherty said the plan was significant, not least as it was the first local policy-based expression of the ambition for Cork contained in Project Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework.

Currently Cork has up to €1.8 billion in ring-fenced central government funding and up to €3.5 billion earmarked for the city over 20 years as part of the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS).

“There is a visible confidence in our city as evidenced by planned landmark projects such as the €46 million Grand Parade Quarter and the Cork City Docklands, a scheme of international significance that, as Ireland’s largest regeneration project, has already received €355 million from the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF),” said Doherty.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened phase one of Cork’s newest park – in the heart of Cork Docklands – last month. Marina Park will be six times larger than Fitzgerald’s Park and equivalent in size to Dublin Zoo when phase two is completed.

The park forms part of Cork City Council’s Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy aimed at enhancing Cork as a place to live and invest.

“When fully developed, Marina Park will be a new eco-regional park for the people of Cork and beyond,” said Doherty.

“The proposed development of connecting active travel links from the city centre along the Marina promenade and eastwards to Blackrock Castle and the Blackrock-Passage West Greenway presents an irresistible proposition for walkers, runners and cyclists.

“Marina Park isn’t just a major new city park: it is also a key climate adaptation intervention, acting as a flood storage basin in the event of flooding. This will form part of a much wider flood protection strategy.”

Cork city centre’s historic medieval quarter will be at the heart of one of the most ambitious public realm renewal programmes ever undertaken in the city, and will begin next year.

Doherty said work was due to start on the first phase of the €46.05 million Grand Parade Quarter project, which will see a complete renewal of the area around the southern gateway to the medieval city.

“The works will be funded through the government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) established under the government’s Ireland 2040 programme and from Cork City Council’s own resources,” she explained. “The project represents the first application of URDF investment in the city.”

Bishop Lucey Park is to be completely renewed based on an award-winning architectural design that opens up the park to the wider city centre, reimagines space within it and highlights the city’s medieval wall. South Main Street will be transformed through the creation of a large-scale public space.

Cork City Council, in conjunction with the National Transport Authority (NTA), is leading the transition to a more sustainable transport system. The MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme aims to support economic activity and enhance access to the city centre through significantly improved options for walking, cycling and public transport.

“Under the scheme, the public realm will be improved, and new traffic arrangements put in place on MacCurtain Street and adjoining streets so as to make the area more accommodating for shoppers, pedestrians and cyclists,” she said. “The plan will have a transformational effect.

“A significant milestone in the evolution of the city was the establishment of Munster Technological University (MTU), as now we have two universities in the city with a combined student population of 40,000.”

Furthermore, work is continuing apace on Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s Dunkettle interchange works – a key piece of infrastructure that will improve travel times at a traffic trouble spot where a number of key national roads intersect.

Iarnród Éireann is also investing €185 million in commuter travel in Cork while the NTA is spending another €600 million to reduce bus travel times and expand the city’s bus network part of BusConnects Cork.

Cork City Council has ambitious climate action targets and in recent months, the European Commission announced that it was to become one of Europe’s first climate neutral cities, said Doherty.

“This selection will give us access to a network of cities which are working towards a common goal and see economic opportunity in this transition,” she said.

“Cork’s key differentiator as a place to do business and work is the collaborative energy that exists within the public and private sectors and between the public and private sector.”