Cork lanscape

What’s changed in Planning and Development

Cork lanscape

On Friday April 17th, a further extension of 19 days was announced to the public participation period in the planning system. More information can be accessed here.

This further extension impacts in the following ways:

If an application was lodged before or on Friday 21 February 2020, the public participation phase is completed, and so a planning authority can make a decision within the extended deadline;
If an application was lodged after that date, but before 29 March 2020, the decision cannot be made until after 9 May 2020 to ensure that the public participation element has been completed;
If an application is lodged after 29 March 2020, it cannot be determined by the Planning Authority until after the expiration of the five week period for public consultation, which now commences on 10 May 2020, so subject to the date on which an application is submitted, the earliest a decision could be made would be Monday 15 June 2020.
The extended time will also apply to planning appeals, which An Bord Pleanála will continue to receive by post.

The Department continues to recommend to planning authorities that public consultation and council meeting activity on all Plans be deferred until after the extension period, which will now end on 9 May 2020.

Source: https://www.housing.gov.ie/planning/covid-19-coronavirus/public-participation-period-planning-system-extended-further-19-days

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COVID-19 Emergency Legislation overview

On Sunday 29th March, the Government approved a request by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy to extend by 23 days the statutory time period for processing planning applications under the Planning Acts.

In brief, this means that if a planning application was lodged prior to February 21st, the public participation phase is completed, and the relevant planning authority can make a decision within the extended deadline. However, if an application was lodged after February 21st and before March 29th, the decision cannot be made until after the 20th of April.

If the planning application is lodged after March 29th, it cannot be decided by the relevant planning authority until the five-week period for public consultation on the application commences, which will commence after April 20. Essentially the order applies to all applications lodged after the February 21, with decisions on these not be made until after April 20.

All public meetings associated with planning, or appeals are now officially deferred until the restrictions on the movement of the public are lifted. The changes also apply to appeals to An Bord Pleanála. The Department has also recommended to planning authorities that public meetings on all Plans be officially deferred for the period of the extension. This includes Development Plan, Development Plan Variations and Local Area Plan processes. As such Cork County Development Plan 2022 – 2028 has had its submission deadline to the public consultation phase extended to the 2nd June.

The emergency legislation was passed to safeguard the integrity of decision making, to ensure the ongoing work and function of planning and development processes and its role in supporting social and economic activity when this COVID 19 emergency is past.

In more detail, here are the key points and applications of the emergency legislation:

The circular published on March 29th from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government outlines the actions across the planning functions being taken in response to COVID-19 and the evolving situation.

New Section 251A of the Planning and Development Act
A new provision (Section 251A) has been inserted into the Planning and Development Act, 2000 as amended (the Act).
1. To the effect that the period from 29th March 2020 to the 20 April 2020, inclusive, may be disregarded when calculating any appropriate period, specified period, or other timelines in the following Acts, or provisions, or in any regulations made under those acts or provisions:
I. The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended;
II. The Derelicts Sites Act, 1990;
III. Part 2 of the Urban Regenerations and Housing Act, 2015 (which relates to the vacant site levy);
IV. Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act, 2016 (which relates the Strategic Housing Developments)

Government confirms that the planning system has not been paused, instead the timelines have been extended wherein decisions can be made.

Regulations
2. The second focus of the measures relates specifically to two regulations geared at addressing developments during this emergency.
I. The Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No.2) Regulations, 2020 – during the period of the COVID-19 emergency, a change in use from a premises selling food for consumption on the premises to one providing food for takeaway is considered an exempt development.
II. The Planning and Development Act 2000 (Section 181) Regulations, 2020 states that the Planning and Development Act 2000 will not be applied to certain classes of development by or on behalf of a State authority.
i. This may include the change of use and repurposing of existing buildings and facilities, and/or the provision of temporary new-build accommodation and structures to address the COVID-19 civil emergency.

Guidance on enforcement
This relates to essential retail operators and refers to the ongoing efforts to ensure that food and other supplies can be delivered in a safe and timely manner. In some instances, this may lead to a technical contravening of planning conditions that restrict times of deliveries. Such technical contraventions may also occur outside of retail, such as in the case of childcare facilities, those established for front line workers.
I. The approach to enforcement in this will be pragmatic and measured, and the discretion available to planning authorities under the relevant Sections of the Planning Act, should be applied insofar as possible, other than in circumstances where such operations could seriously impact on public health and welfare. The Minister has issued guidance under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.

Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF)
This is due to take on increased importance post the pandemic shock. It is recognised that the URDF has unique potential to accelerate economic and social revitalisation in cities and large towns.
I. As such, the Department’s objective is to continue the URDF supported programme and is committed to progressing the projects already approved under Call 1 and to the continuation of the programme under Call 2.
II. There has been an extension to the deadline for receipt of applications under Call 2 to 29 May 2020.

Foreshore
Foreshore applications will continue to progress in accordance with health guidance.

Finally, the Planning Division will continue to work with planning authorities.

Further updates

FAQs

Office of the Planning Regulator

To contact a member of the Public Affairs team CLICK HERE

Covid 19

Important Update to all Members

Covid 19

Cork Chamber are monitoring the unfolding situation around COVID-19. Today An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, announced additional measures to protect citizens which are designed to delay the spread of COVID-19, and we commend Government for this decisive action (linked below).

“Protection of our citizens is paramount and while this move poses certain challenges for all, it is critical that we all play our part in helping to contain the virus and therefore helping to limit the economic impact. Every company has a unique set of dynamics to consider in managing personnel, operations and risk factors and we encourage all businesses to be prudent following Government and HSE guidelines, and to avail of relevant supports made available to businesses and employees.” Conor Healy, CEO Cork Chamber.

The Chamber are planning to deliver certain meetings and events online over the coming weeks and the Chamber team will continue with its work and role in support of our membership base across the city region. We are adapting our work practices and operations to fulfil Government guidelines and we remain available to provide the service to which you are accustomed.

This is a time of heightened uncertainty for citizens and the business community alike. The support of community is central to maintaining Cork’s resilience and we will stay in touch to support one another.

Here are official Government resources Relating to COVID-19 you may find helpful:

Government update March 12th (covering recommendations to employers, closure of schools, advice on mass gatherings and more)
Guide for Business Continuity Planning
Supports for Employees Impacted by COVID-19
Travel Advice: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland
Health Service Executive Advice
Senior Care Helpline : 1800 80 45 91

Covid-19 business supports

Supports for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

Covid-19 business supports

At Cork Chamber we are monitoring the unfolding situation surrounding the COVID-19 virus on a national and international basis. We are liaising with local and national government to bring updates and guidance for you and your business.

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has put a range of supports in place and we encourage our members to access available supports to help navigate these uncertain times.

  • A €200m Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital scheme for eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19. Loans of up to €1.5m will be available at reduced rates, with up to the first €500,000 unsecured. Applications can be made through the SBCI website 
  • A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.
  • The maximum loan available from MicroFinance Ireland will be increased from €25,000 to €50,000 as an immediate measure to specifically deal with exceptional circumstances that micro-enterprises – (sole traders and firms with up to 9 employees) – are facing. Applications can be made through the MFI website  or through your local LEO.
  • The Credit Guarantee Scheme will be available to COVID-19 impacted firms through the Pillar Banks. Loans of up to €1m will be available at terms of up to 7 years.

The following supports are available for firms experiencing trading difficulties and short-term shocks:

  • The Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection and the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation will provide a joint First Responder support service through the Intreo Offices and development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in each region to provide tailored supports for impacted firms, with objective of avoiding mass lay-offs and buying time for firms to work through the short-term disruptions.
  • Firms that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Short Term Work Support by contacting their local Intreo Office, see https://www.gov.ie/en/service/c20e1b-short-time-work-support/
  • The full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant supports will be available to firms to help with strategies to innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.
  • Local Enterprise Offices in Cork will be providing vouchers from €2,500 up to €10,000 (with 50:50 match funding) to support business continuity preparedness, innovation and productivity.

We encourage business to avail of this user friendly Continuity Checklist which is designed to improve business preparedness for disruptions to services and trading as a result of COVID-19. This can be downloaded here.

For employees:

A suite of supports has been announced to give greater support to employees and self-employed. See more here.

Covid-19 Employee benefit

Supports for Employees Impacted by COVID-19

Covid-19 Employee benefit

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are introducing measures to provide income support to people affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

3 major changes have been announced:

  • the current 6-day waiting period for Illness Benefit will not apply to anyone who has COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or is in medically-required self-isolation
  • the personal rate of Illness Benefit will increase from €203 per week to €305 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks medically-required self-isolation or for the full duration of absence from work following a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  • the normal social insurance requirements for Illness Benefit will be changed or the means test for Supplementary Welfare Allowance will be removed

You can access public health advice about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) at the government’s information page.

Gov.ie has more on “COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information for Employers and Employees” here.

Details on supports for businesses are posted here.

Covid 19

COVID-19 – Contingency Planning

Covid 19

 

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has published a user-friendly checklist identifying a range of issues for enterprise to consider in responding to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Government of Ireland Advice: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/472f64-covid-19-coronavirus-guidance-and-advice/

Health Service Executive Health Protection Surveillance Centre: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/

Travel Advice Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/coronavirus/

Government has agreed national actions, cancellation of St Patrick’s Festival and new support for heath service, business and workers : https://www.gov.ie/en/news/72ecf5-government-agrees-next-phase-of-irelands-covid-19-response/

CMATS, Cork Transport Plans

Cork Infrastructure – Getting the right transport strategy is vital for the future of the region.

CMATS, Cork Transport Plans

Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS)

In 2020 it’s very easy to make quick, inflammatory statements that sound great but do nothing to address the complex and holistic nature of the challenges we face as a society. Across the breadth of societal issues from housing and healthcare, to foreign policy and trade there is a growing tendency to oversimplify issues, and to jump fully into the silo of your choosing. Transport is one such issue where, for example, some would argue exclusively for public and active transport, while others heavily prioritise roads.

CMATS – Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy
Fortunately for Cork, Government policy and stakeholder consensus is on the verge of being enshrined in a National Transport Authority plan called the Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy (CMATS) which comprehensively demonstrates that the answer for Cork includes road, bus, cycle, walking and rail. To support the implementation of this strategy, the Chamber has called for a Cork NTA office and for the Strategy to be set in legislation to ensure tenacity and delivery.

Some Reasons CMATS is important:

  • 100km of new and upgraded footpath
  • 140km of greenways
  • 250% increase in footfall on St Patricks Street350km of cycle network & 60km of inter urban cycle network
  • 100km of bus lanes with 6 strategic park and rides
  • 22 new 2 car trains and 8 new suburban rail stations such as Kilbarry
  • 17km of light rail with a 5-minute frequency

CMATS also references roads projects such as the M28 to Ringaskiddy, the northern ring road, Dunkettle interchange and the M20 to Limerick which are important facilitators of the exemplary public and active transport that we wish to see dominate our metropolitan area. They take account of the National Planning Framework by enhancing the connectivity of Ireland’s 2nd and 3rd largest City regions. They enable the Port of Cork to make the historic move to Ringaskiddy, thus making our docklands and Tivoli the home to a thriving City community and solidifying the role of the Port in global shipping. They also pave the way for options such as a city centre HGV ban in doing so enhance City Centre air quality, pedestrian and cycle safety. They make journeys safer, quieter and less pollutant by removing hazards and congestion and routing necessary commercial vehicular movement away from communities.

Strategic Upgrades & Spend Ratio
A limited suite of carefully planned strategic upgrades is therefore a functional necessity for Cork. This accepted, the remaining element of debate in the well-worn battle line between the committed public and active transport advocate and the roads promoter is which should be prioritised and the spend ratio between the former and the latter. In a 2019 Citizens Assembly vote, 90% wanted to flip the roads to public transport spend ratio from 2:1 to 1:2. While the precise impacts of such a move are untested the sentiment is clear. It must also be noted that the Cork Chamber membership have consistently elevated public transport and housing as the top two priorities during the same period.

The Chamber has repeatedly called for the first €500 million to be made available for CMATS delivery with an immediate focus of the delivery of Bus Connects, the Cork Cycle Network and pedestrian improvements, and increased frequency on our existing rail. It is also important to acknowledge that the cost of bringing projects through planning is a fraction of the cost of delivery. The long-term nature of the process and tendency for objections creates a major frustration for project timelines. As such, there is a need for multiple activity streams to ensure that Cork does not stall based on over reliance on a small handful of enticing projects. It is also worth noting that funding models of various formats such as PPP can be used to make certain projects happen. There can be no reason for lack of ambition or delivery and the burden need not rest exclusively with the State. There is also no reason why the spend ratio in a place like Cork cannot fluctuate and evolve as specific projects are brought to fruition.

M20
In 2020 building a new road may not capture the imagination like a cycle lane or greenway. However, the M20 offers an opportunity for Ireland to build the best integrated motorway in Europe. There is no reason why public transport cannot be the dominant mode of travel at the point of interaction with both Cork and Limerick Cities. CMATS and its Limerick equivalent can provide for this. At each city entrance bus corridors can be incorporated with park and rides. From this point, bus frequency and reliability are key to traffic free intercity travel. HGV’s can move unhindered and shoppers and schoolchildren can cross the road in Charleville and Buttevant without diesel engines churning around them. The town centre can become a quality space for people. With a national tree planting strategy of 22million trees per annum there can surely be room for a significant contribution to indigenous planting along the whole of the route corridor. The relative cost would be negligible. There should be cycle corridors adjacent, in parallel or incorporated to the new M20 or along the old N20 route.

True Mobility
The route to mobility in a city region like Cork will require an acknowledgement that all assets will be required. Following this is a question of prioritisation, what can be done, what is most strategic, which projects can be brought through planning while others are in construction. With gestation periods of decades there is no such thing as a quick win with roads infrastructure. But while a road rumbles through the planning process, multiple fine grain interventions can be delivered. Delivery of CMATS will define the success of Cork.

Thomas Mc Hugh, Director of Public Affairs & Communications at Cork Chamber

Published by The Irish Examiner, March 02, 2020

“As transformative as the Euro” – New EU Green Deal Explained

A month into office, new EU Commission President Ursula Von der Layen presented ‘the European Green Deal’; an ambitious strategy to transform Europe’s economy for a sustainable future.

Described in Brussels circles as being “as transformative as the Euro”, the Green Deal will frame every project, policy, regulation or investment decision made under Von der Layen’s commission.

So, what’s this deal about and what can we expect?

More Ambitious Climate Targets

Put simply, the Green Deal sets new, more ambitious climate targets while also decoupling economic growth from resource use. Critically, the Deal aims to ensure that the EU economy remains competitive during the green transition and that no groups of citizens, or sectors, are left behind.

As with any plan, delivery is key. To successfully transform the Europe into becoming more sustainable, much will depend on raising finance to stimulate investment, mobilise innovation and change how we heat our buildings, consume products, or transport people.

8 Core Areas

The Deal covers eight core areas:

  • Increased climate targets for 2030 and 2050
  • Supplying clean, affordable and secure energy
  • Mobilising industry for a clean and circular economy
  • Building in an energy and resource efficient way
  • Shifting to sustainable and smart mobility
  • ‘Farm to Fork’ environmentally friendly food systems
  • Preserving eco systems and biodiversity
  • Zero pollution and toxic free environments

A Just Transition

To meet its targets, the EU will be launching the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP) and a Just Transition Mechanism. The EIB is set to re-position itself as a ‘climate bank’. Meanwhile, the SEIP aims to mobilise a €1 trillion fund, with at least 25% coming from the EU budget.

Furthermore, the Just Transition Fund will contain approx. €100 billion to support regions most exposed to transition challenges within each member state. Of this, circa €50 billion will come from the Commission and the balance from a public sector loan facility through the EIB.

The word from Brussels is clear: The future of Europe is a greener Europe; a Europe which cares about the environment and a world leader in sustainability.  And so, it is incumbent on us all to make the most of this opportunity.

Paula Cogan Annual Dinner speech

Chamber President, Paula Cogan Speech at Cork Chamber 2020 Annual Dinner

Paula Cogan Speech

Lord Mayor, Tánaiste, Minister, Deputy Mayor of Cork County, Leader of Fianna Fáil, Excellencies & Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Public Representatives, Distinguished Guests, fellow Members of Cork Chamber …..Ladies and Gentlemen, as President of Cork Chamber you are all most welcome to our 2020 Annual Dinner.

There’s lots of talk about polls, percentages, winners and losers this evening. Tomorrow, discreetly and privately each of us will cast a vote that will determine the future of Cork and of Ireland.

But every day, here, nationally and globally, people are casting their vote for or against living and investing in Cork. These people equally define the future of Cork and Ireland. They take their lead from the way in which we choose to shape our environment, society and economy.

Let’s talk polls, and percentage points. 14,000 additional people have chosen to build their careers in FDI companies in Cork over the past 9 years and countless thousands have joined the momentum of our indigenous innovators. Companies have chosen to invest, their people have chosen to live here, their families to grow here. We must continue as a society to invest in our value add, our talent, our creativity and the strong foundations that uphold this City region.

Fifteen years ago, 80 percent of people said they chose a job before a location.  Today, 64 percent choose the location before they choose the company or the job. Quality of life, placemaking, culture and economic resilience are the defining factors.

Simple things make all the difference. Traffic lights that change for pedestrians. Room on a footpath for a pram or wheelchair. Bikes and safe spaces to ride them. Buses and trains that arrive on time, and with a frequency that makes the timetable irrelevant. Park and rides that remove cars from our inner city. Green spaces. Trees. Riverbank walkways. Play areas for children. Connectivity to other cities – safe and fast route corridors. Galleries, cafes and retailers that open late, and on Sundays. New places to live in our City. Old places reimagined. Homes instead of houses. Communities instead of neighbourhoods.

Enough time has been spent making do with incremental change. Tortuous planning and funding delays already frustrate progress on existing commitments.  We need game changers now. We cannot afford as a society, as an economy, or environmentally to roll back on progress. Exceptional plans are in place in Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan and National Planning Framework. The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy contains 3.5 billion for sustainable transport in Cork. This is welcome, but Cork needs the first 500 million now to deliver quick wins after a decade of underinvestment. The National Transport Authority needs a team solely focussed on Cork and this can only be achieved by a team based in a Cork office.

But the focus cannot be on Government alone. This year Cork Chamber is planting 200 indigenous trees. Next year we will plant 200 more. In 10 years over 2,000 of these trees will be growing in Cork. For context, Cork Chamber is an SME, employing twenty people, a not for profit with a steady but modest income. This is just one of the steps we are taking. The point being, as a business community taking steps together we can have a massive impact on the quality of life of our people.

This time last year we launched our appeal for €100,000 with the commitment of Social Innovation Fund to match it with a further €100,000. Tonight we are immensely proud to have opened our Sustainable Cork Fund of €200,000 supported by our members. It will help people to deliver on bright ideas and plant the seeds of a more creative, resilient and sustainable place. It will support projects focused on Climate Action and Environmental Awareness, Community Inclusion and Cohesion, Sustainable Employment and Economic Development. We must empower a thriving Cork. To empower, we must support socially conscious and innovative people.

These actions do not mean we are better people. It simply reflects a power shift. We stand more to gain from acting than we do from idle delay and talk. Consumer demand is transforming. Investment decisions are rapidly evolving. Cork and Ireland’s competitive advantage will increasingly be weighted on our ability to build a fair society that values people, nature and place. This is where the brightest want to live. This is where the employers who vie for their talent wish to invest. This is the space where Ireland will continue to advance. We cannot afford to simply catch up. We must move swiftly and lead.

The race is competitive, but are we are training like amateurs? Timelines come and go. Our neighbours become the global leaders in offshore wind while our powerplants creak. We talk about public transport but build no bus lanes. We set density targets but we don’t enhance construction viability. Cork slowly begins to sprawl. If we want to avoid playing like amateurs we need to stop acting like amateurs. Let’s put it simply. If over the lifespan of the next national Government and current local Government, we do not comprehensively deliver cycle and public transport infrastructure, we have lost. If over the same time we have not delivered a subsidy regime that shifts our energy supply to renewable production, we have failed. If we don’t create vibrant communities in our urban areas, we are consigning another generation to a life spent sitting in traffic, killing productivity, harming air quality, and damaging quality of life. A pious objection culture blocks our progress. Strong leadership and teamwork is our ally.

In 2005 Cork proudly stood as the European capital of culture. Today we continue to celebrate this legacy and Philip King will share his wisdom shortly. 15 years from this milestone, our recent economic trends data supports culture for all with 92% confirming that art in public spaces enhances the experience for residents and visitors alike. Public art amplifies local identity, inspires creativity and beautifies our communities. With a Placemaking Fund and Ireland’s only Customer Service Charter we continue to evolve our urban experience. Without a doubt, we are in an envious position with a strong tradition of arts and culture, a tradition that forms a central thread of Cork’s story. The legacy of 2005 continues to evolve.

By 2025 we must put another great legacy in place.  In 2025 Cork should celebrate the honour of being the European Green Capital. Joining the ranks of Stockholm, Bristol, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Essen, Oslo and Lahti. I set a goal so that we may measure success. I list the previous award holders to show that in doing so we will not lead the way. We will simply catch up. I call on all stakeholders, the City and County, the next Government, the NTA, TII and our members to back this objective forcefully and with urgency. The award is not an end goal. It is a means of measuring first steps. For Cork to differentiate, for Cork to be internationally competitive, nothing short of excellence will suffice.

Climate change, and the resultant turbulence on global society and markets is not something that is just topical. It is something that will define generations and define an era. Between us all, we have the power to be the change. To drive and demand climate action. There can be no downside to confidently pursuing a better quality of life for our City region.

For Cork to be the best place for business, it must aggressively and relentlessly improve quality of life. It is not an aspiration. It is a necessity. Ireland must re-establish its sense of place on the global stage. 50 years ago neutrality, diplomacy, poetry and culture were the USP’s of a small island nation establishing its economic identity. We have now firmly established our economic capabilities.

Whether in politics, sport or economics only the losers get to rest. We are running with the fastest and today the game moves faster than ever before. Our opponents have firm goals and defined bullish visions of progress. We must be clear on OUR OWN vision or we will lose our identity.

Tomorrow we go the polls. On Monday we go to work and our children go back to school. In time we will have a new Government. Their every move will be judged. Ireland must win. And a successful, progressive, and sustainable Cork is the metric that will define us.

Tonight as we gather in this historic building of City Hall which mirrors the resilience of the people of Cork as it rose from the ashes after the burning of Cork in December 1920.

I conclude with the words of a great Cork patriot Terence MacSwiney

Our future history shall be more glorious that that of any contemporary state.  We shall look for prosperity, no doubt, but let our enthusiasm be for beautiful living – we shall build up our strength, yet not for conquest, but as a pledge of brotherhood and a defence of the weaker one of the earth. We shall take pride in our institutions, not only as guaranteeing the stability of the state but as securing the happiness of the citizens and we shall lead Europe again as we led it of old.”

Words spoken 100 years ago as appropriate today as then.

** TOAST – I’d like to propose a toast to the members and guests of Cork Chamber.

Sustainable living Cork

Things are Looking Up for Cork’s Sustainable Future

Sustainable living Cork

We all know the image. In 1932, amid the Great Recession, eleven construction workers sit with dangling legs high above Manhattan’s skyline, enjoying lunch atop a skyscraper. Staged to promote the construction of the Rockefeller Centre, the photo has since become synonymous with Irish immigrant workers and the development of downtown New York.

Some 90 years later, if recent planning applications are anything to go by, it appears that construction workers will soon be working on tall buildings across our own evolving skyline.

Encouraged by new planning guidelines, in which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government called for councils to “lift overly restrictive maximum heights” and actively pursue tall buildings in city centres, exciting applications have been submitted for new types of developments which boldly re-imagine the look of Cork Docklands.

Cities Re-imagined

Following in the century-old footsteps of cities across the USA and recently those in emerging economies, high-rise buildings are experiencing a resurgence across Europe in places as diverse as Manchester, Rotterdam, Milan and Barcelona.

Back in Cork, in the past six months, planning has been granted for Prism, a 15-story elegant office development inspired by New York’s Flatiron building, directly behind Parnell Place bus station. Across the from the Elysian (currently Cork’s tallest building), Railway Gardens – a 17-story apartment block centred around sustainable transport – has been given the green light. In the Docklands, JCD Group’s application to develop a state-of-the-art apartment scheme with 25 floors awaits a decision from An Board Pleanála. Meanwhile, Tower Holding’s proposal for a landmark 34-story hotel, warehouses and public plaza on Custom House Quay is also pending go-ahead.

Similar changes are happening in Dublin. A landmark ruling in April by the planning authority paved the way for high-rise construction on Tara Street, while Project Waterfront in the North Docklands includes a new 44-story tower.

Building Up Instead of Out

It is incredibly existing to have this scale of transformational development in Ireland within immediate proximity to existing city centres.

Building up instead of out has long been advocated to optimise our urban footprint. As an example, better spatial planning and delivery of high-density can play an important part in reducing traffic congestion and avoiding sprawl. In fact, improving core density is the first and foremost principle championed by City Regions Ireland; an urban voice representing the five cities of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

Compact development is also supported by national planning policy and endorsed by both Cork City and County Councils in a joint strategy for the future growth of Cork. Under Government’s Project Ireland 2040, a key focus is that 50% of all future urban population growth takes place in existing brownfield locations.

Looking ahead to 2031, Cork Metropolitan Area’s workforce will grow by 65,000 people. To facilitate this employment growth, we will need 27,300 new housing units, investment in our transport network, additional social infrastructure, places to play and spaces to ride a bike.

Quality of Place

In this context, it is welcome that Cork’s proposed tall buildings are all planned right next to public transport hubs to minimise the need for additional car-based commuting or investment in the road network. Equally important is the engagement of world leading tall buildings experts to ensure proper placemaking and appropriate design. The more people that live, work and socialise in an area, the more vibrant a place will be.

The 2019 Human Development Index Ranking by the United Nations places Ireland third globally for quality of life. Marrying our future economic growth and opportunity with delivery of high-density, placemaking, well-designed communities, and integration of sustainable transport is essential to maintain Cork as an attractive place to live. Quality of life is an increasing priority for anyone deciding where to invest. As a city and country, we need to plan for, and continually improve, quality of place; forever keeping an eye to the world and attuned to the evolving preferences of people.

High Density vs. High Rise

We are at a pivotal point in Cork with development at a larger scale than ever seen before. However, high-density does not exclusively mean high-rise. Well-designed and appropriately located tall buildings can become game-charges for Cork and further identify our Docklands and as a vibrant international location. But we must also continue to value and invest in our historic core. Within our current city centre, the goal of high-density could mean many things: A return of vacant units to city centre homes, above the shop living, or construction of six to eight story apartment buildings that blend well with the architectural style of the surrounding area.

The construction activity on Horgan’s Quay, Penrose Quay and Albert Quay provides a sneak peek of what’s to come. Cork’s Docklands will become a focal point for commercial activity. We must ensure that high-quality public places, sustainable and public transport, and integration of tall buildings at street level are incorporated into the City Docklands rejuvenation from the outset. Public realm upgrades such as the €6.5m Albert Quay investment passed by Cork City Council in September and now subject to a legal challenge, must be developed without delay or we may undermine the advancement of our city.

No one wants to retrofit neighbourhoods in the future when the opportunity is there now, to do this right.

A city rising is, indeed, a beautiful thing. Who knows? Maybe the next iconic photo will be of eleven ironworkers eating lunch atop a skyscraper, high above the River Lee.

 

This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner on 26 December 2019 as part of its Cork on the Rise series. 

Students and artwork at the Future Forms exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery in UCC

Embedding Resilience at the Heart of Climate Adaptation

Students and artwork at the Future Forms exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery in UCC

Students and artwork at the Future Forms exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery in UCC

Notwithstanding global efforts to limit a rise in climate temperature to within 1.5 degrees, Ireland will still expect effects from a rising temperature and must prepare for this, as well as for beyond 1.5 degrees. This requires a two-pronged approach through mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is about changing how we live, travel, consume and manufacture and requires a large scale and fundamental shift in how we best use land and natural resources. Adaptation focuses on the expected impacts and the practical actions that society need to take in order to manage the risks and protect communities.

Michelle O’Sullivan, Senior Public Affairs Executive with Cork Chamber shares with us the concerns and priorities of the business community on climate adaptation for Cork in the years ahead.

Building resilience across all of society is essential for a successful transition to a low carbon economy and society. Recently we included submissions to the public consultations for the draft City, and County Climate Adaptation Strategies, while asking for commitment to develop dedicated and comprehensive climate change mitigation strategies to work in parallel with adaptation efforts. Without a shadow of doubt, we need to be implementing actions immediately to support a thriving and sustainable Cork region and we very much welcomed this opportunity to engage with the draft plans for Cork, and which have now been adopted by the Councils.

The effects of climate change are being felt now, with weather related incidences such as Hurricane Lorenzo now a real threat. The EPA’s Climate Change Research Programme undertake ongoing analysis and studies on climate change in Ireland. Through analysis of the meteorological records, evidence shows that Ireland’s climate is changing in line with global patterns with impacts set to increase in the coming decades and heightening in the second half of the century. Impacts include sea level rise, more intense storms and rainfall, increased likelihood and magnitude of river and coastal flooding, adverse impacts on water quality, changes in distribution of plant and animal species, and effects on fisheries.

Resilience building is key, and this will be particularly urgent for communities in vulnerable, low lying fluvial, pluvial and coastal flood prone locations. We don’t have to cast our memories back too far to know how Cork City is especially vulnerable, with business and residential communities being severely impacted in the past. Over the last two decades, Cork has incurred an estimated €150m in damages from the 2004, 2009 and 2014 flood events, with associated uncertainty and difficulties for businesses and homeowners to secure insurance.

Above all, to be effective, strategies need to be based on a top down and bottom up approach involving businesses, communities and individuals in this all of society challenge. A focus on implementation, monitoring and evaluation is vital, as well as the updating of strategy actions to align with changing conditions. Preparedness and proactivity will be key in countering the worst effects of changing climate patterns, and it is essential that these Climate Adaptation Strategies are meaningfully supported by funding from Central Government to safeguard economic, environmental and social resilience, and to support our local authorities.

As part of the Chamber submissions to the consultations, we emphasised the strength of robust and diverse stakeholder involvement, a bottom up and top down approach and the need for agility in the strategies. We queried the specific timeframes included and meant by short, medium- and long-term actions and sought clarity on the duration of each timeframe, believing the inclusion of a more specific breakdown of these timeframes would assist monitoring and review, with each action having a set period of implementation.

The inclusion of natural resilience through green infrastructure, and nature for climate adaptation, the inclusion of climate resilient designs and materials and the criticality of energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy solutions as part of new developments are a must. We need to be developing Cork in a way that is prudent, futureproofing as we go, and resilient incorporating nature-based solutions to enhance resilience, health, food security with planting for pollinators, heat/ air pollutant abatement through tree planting, wellbeing as well as placemaking.

The focus within the strategies on climate considerations in design, planning and tendering processes in the construction of infrastructure projects is a must to ensure the safety and reliability of infrastructure, as well as the longevity and resilience of the investment in capital expenditure projects. All in all, it’s essential that ongoing engagement and participation across all communities is a central pillar to ensure representative discussions of future pathways, and the empowerment of the business community and wider communities locally in the implementation of these strategies.

You can keep up to date on the Cork Chamber submissions to public consultation via the Cork Chamber website.