A bit of background
In an effort to reinvigorate Cork City – one of the few parts of Ireland that actually saw it’s population decline during the Celtic Tiger years – Cork City Council set up the Docklands Development Directorate in City Hall.
This noble outfit was tasked with considering how the ‘docks’ could be transformed into a new city quarter. This would encompass the northern docklands (Horgan’s Quay and the Lower Glanmire Road) and the southern docklands (an area enclosed, more or less, by the River Lee from Kennedy Quay to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and on the land side by Monaghans Road.
To see the scale of the docklands (166 acres) in relation to the rest of the city you only have to look at this map from the Ctiy Council’s website:
An area that would have been known in the 20th century for heavy industry (Fords, Dunlops and the Marina Power Station) The area now acted as a hub for small businesses and various storage industries (milling, fertiliser, fuels).
The Dockland Development Directorate produced a blueprint for the area that would create a new community of up to 23,000 residents with over 25,000 jobs.
The only public sector project to be included in the plan was the development of what was to be a sub-regional park on the site of the Munster Agricultural Showgrounds. A sub-regional park is one that will address the amenity needs of the residents of the docklands and immediate communities (Ballintemple, Blackrock, Ballinlough, Mahon, Montenotte) but would also be of benefit to those people in the south Cork ‘metropolitan area’ – that’s Douglas, Frankfield and the Rochestown/Passage West/ Monkstown ribbon in plainer language.
This is all common sense – a public park is a good idea because a lack of recreational space creates all sorts of other problems in a community. Problems that normally find their way to the surface through anti-social behaviour.
Recognising this, the City paid in excess of €11.0m to purchase this land in 2006.
The only problem is that the City Council now want to re-zone the bulk of the showgrounds so they can be given over for additional GAA parking and a new all-weather pitch for use by the GAA alone. All for the sum of €1.6m!
The location of this second pitch – rumoured to have 4,000 seats- is right in the middle of the prime part of the proposed park. This re-zoning would rob the citizens of a jewel and would do more besides. It would effectively sever the Marina Park in two, creating two smaller parks at either side of the all weather pitch.
It must be emphasised that the original plans for the purchase of the showgrounds included for the re-development of Páirc Uí Chaoimh. In fact, aside from serious problems that are well documented in the press about the management of events at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the re-development of the Páirc must be welcomed in principle.
It is interesting to consider what was said at the time of the acquisition of the showgrounds by the previous City Manager, Mr. Joe Gavin. He said:
There was full support for the upgrading of Páirc Uí Chaoimh Stadium and for the sale of land to the GAA to accommodate this.
For this purpose the area of land sought was 2.8 acres.
- 2 acres for circulation space around the main stadium
- .55 of an acre for the stand extension
- .25 of an acre being part of Marina Hall.
The disposal of the 2.8 acres would enable the stadium to be increased to accommodate 50,000 spectators and to provide the following:
- 4 Dressing Rooms
- 1 Referee Room
- 1 First Aid Room
- 1 Gymnasium
Function Rooms, Offices, Meeting Rooms, A Museum, A Restaurant, Corporate Boxes and Hospitality Rooms.
The GAA were also seeking land for the provision of a full size all-weather playing pitch which would be floodlit and have a stand for 1,000 spectators. The land sought was 4.27 acres for the pitch and 1.81 acres circulation space totalling 6.08 acres.
Mr. Gavin referred to previous advice given and to reports from planning officials which drew attention to difficulties which the provision of this facility would cause:
1. It would divide and compromise the proposed Marina Public Park approved by the City Council.
2. It would breach the zoning approved by the City Council.
3. It would conflict with the provisions of the South Docklands Local Area Plan adopted by the Council.
4. It would have implications for the public open space provision required for the objectives set out in the Docklands Development Strategy approved by the Council.
5. It would have implications for the Council’s financial resources if alternative lands had to be acquired for the provision of public open space.
6. It may face difficulties in securing planning permission.
7. It would compromise the study being commissioned by the Council for the overall treatment of the Showgrounds and the Atlantic Pond.
The Mr. Gavin recommended that the City Council agree to sell the 2.8 acres required for the upgrading of the stadium and that a decision on the 6 acres of land for the all-weather pitch be deferred until the consultants study on the Showgrounds and Atlantic Pond was finished.