Pilot Dog fouling Awareness & Cleanup Meeting 17th October 8PM Blackrock Community Centre.
— Save Marina Park (@savemarinapark) October 9, 2012
The Blackrock Cleanup group has a scheduled cleanup of the walkway this Saturday October 13th. Plan is to meet in Blackrock village at 10am.
— Save Marina Park (@savemarinapark) October 9, 2012
As part of our on-going work to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the re-zoning of public park land for private development by the GAA at the show grounds in Cork we took the opportunity to meet with our local Member for the European Parliament (MEP), Brian Crowley last Friday, 5th October.
Before you start getting ideas that this involved an expensive ‘fact-finding’ mission to Brussels in order to meet Brian I can assure you that as we have a budget similar to a child’s pocket-money account and we do all our work on a pro-bono basis it was more a question of meeting up after work in a local hotel!
Before we met Brian we had a chat about what we would tell him and, if we’re honest, what good it would do us. As far as we’re concerned the whole issue of a public park for a city like Cork is pretty local and there isn’t much Europe or an MEP could do for us. Still, if you know Brian Crowley, Ireland’s longest serving MEP, you’ll realise that despite spending most of his time in Europe he has never lost touch with the things that matter to his constituents.
Brian had become aware of our campaign through social media and was interested in what we had to say. When explaining the story to-date to Brian We were adamant, as we have been since the start of this whole thing, that we are neither anti-GAA (as we have been portrayed from time-to-time) nor anti-development. Rather we are anti-bad planning and pro-citizen. We think that a city exists because of the citizens and they should be integral to the decision making within the city. So far, the re-zoning and selling off of the showgrounds has been presented as a fait-accompli between the City Council and the GAA.
Like any good politician Brian was neither for nor against the proposed GAA works in the showgrounds. We talked to him about how the proposed second pitch would impact on the area and what it would do to the natural habitat, the residents of the area and the proposed marina park. He seemed to understand the issues and made some interesting points to us; some we knew already and some which were news to us. We emphasised our desire for compromise on issues relating to the second pitch but told him that these had been ignored so far.
He pointed out that in terms of any development of this scale an Environmental Impact Assessment would probably be required and that this would invariably involve a public hearing where many of the issues would be discussed. We knew this but Brian added that as Ireland has just ratified the Aarhus Convention which makes the requirement of public bodies to include the public in decision making legally binding and to ensure that the public have recourse to justice if they want to challenge these decisions.
He also pointed out that as citizens of Europe we all have a fundamental right to petition the European Parliament in relation to any issue which we feel represents a breach of a citizen’s rights. While the Petitions Committee cannot overturn the decisions of a member state they can shine a very bright light on cases where the rights of citizens are infringed. They can also refer issues to the European Commission who can investigate whether a member state (that’s euro-speak for the country you live in) has complied with European law. The Commission does have the right to refer these matters to the European Court of Justice who can take action.
If all that sounds confusing just think about some recent issues in Ireland such as the Septic Tank Charge – this is as a result of Ireland not complying with an EU law from 1975 called the waste directive. If we didn’t start complying with this law we would be fined €26,000 per day by the EU.
If all that still sounds confusing then don’t worry. What it really means is that if you can’t sort something out locally then you can refer it to the European Union to help you get justice.
We were quite impressed with this information. This alone made our meeting worthwhile.
That said, we told Brian that we thought the provision of a public park and the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh were local issues best sorted out by the local democratic process. After all, that’s what local Councillors and Local Government was all about.
Brian agreed and as he said himself: Even in Europe, everything is local.
The Save Marina Park Campaign will have an information stand by the Atlantic Pond for the Rebel Pedal which is taking place this Saturday.
If you’re in the area please drop by and say hello and we can bring you up to speed on the Campaign.
More on the Rebel Pedal
“The Rebel Pedal takes place this year on Saturday 15th September, the cycle parade will be launched by the Lord Mayor, Cllr. John Buttimer at 12pm at the Grand Parade.”
“The post pedal picnic takes place at the Atlantic Pond from 1pm – 4pm. Entertainment will include music, Klaus Harvey & his band “Good Rain”, a puppet show, bike workshop, face-painting and more. We encourage you to bring along frisbees, balls and other outdoor games.”
Poster for the Rebel Pedal
Well, we’ve had two of the four inter-county championship matches so far this summer so it’s a good time to see how the GAA, City Council and Gardaí are getting on at managing the flow of traffic to and from the matches.
The attendance at the two matches (Cork-Kerry & Cork-Tipperary) was noted at 23,000 and 32,000 respectively. These numbers are somewhere between half to two thirds of the stadium capacity and as there is a home team playing there is probably a reduced level of traffic.
From what was reported and witnessed during the two matches there are a lot of positives to draw from the effort being made but there are some serious problems still taking place that are continuing to have a significant impact on peoples lives, health and safety and amenity.
So, what’s going in the right direction?
- There was a large presence of marshals and Gardaí with plenty of barriers
- There was a cordon (largely cosmetic but a good visual guide) with ticket & bottle checks on the approaches to the stadium
- The city council had staff out to collect wheelie bins (from check points) and street sweepers to tidy up after the game.
- Bus Eireann ran double-deckers to the South Mall from Ballintemple to cope with extra pedestrian traffic.
- The areas around the two pubs in Ballintemple was kept clean.
- There was signage directing people into the park-and-walk in Mahon as they came from the South Ring Road.
One thing that was obvious from the two games so far was that the traffic plan needs to adopt to cope with the teams that are playing. For example, for the Cork-Kerry game the area around Blackrock village and the marina was empty. They all head out of the stadium and go west to Killarney or North via Mallow. The Cork-Tipp match was the opposite with parking chaos in Blackrock. The Munster final on Sunday 14th July will be a big test with two teams and their fans trying to get to the grounds via the Jack Lynch tunnel. I bet the traders in Mahon Point will be annoyed if they lose a day’s trading because of traffic disruption.
This means that the traffic management plan has to be specific for the teams that play – i.e. a Waterford/Tipp game has different needs from a Cork/Clare game. Or you have to create a wider zone of control for traffic – at the N25/M40 (ring road) and prevent all traffic exiting at Mahon, Douglas & Rochestown and take all traffic to the empty city centre.
Where can improvements be made?
The main observation you’d have to make is that the whole thing looks a bit amateurish. The revised management plan is just the same as the old plan with a bit more attention paid to house keeping. That means it’s as-you-were with all the fans travelling as close as they can to the grounds by private car. All the areas that have temporary parking control are fine but areas like Beaumont Drive, Temple Vale, Berkley, Centre Park Road, Moahans Road, Blackrock Village, The Marina by Shandon Boat Club, The Mahon link road to Mahon Point, Ballinlough, Boreenamanna Road and all the side roads are all crammed with match traffic. Much of it parked illegally.
Some other things that caught our eyes:
- The Park-and-walk facilities were not well used. There are three reasons for this: They were charging €5/car when the public road is free and they were giving not walking times from the facility to the grounds. For example, the Motorola site in Mahon was not signing the railway line walk as the fastest route (nor the walking time) to get to the match. The Camogie grounds on Castle road were empty for the Cork-Kerry game. It’s the wrong location for Kerry, Clare or Limerick fans.
- Parking violations were taking place wholesale. This is annoying as it shows a lack of respect by both the fans and by the Gardaí for letting it take place. The annoyance you can get over, it’s the danger of it to others that causes the real problems. Just imagine what it must be like for someone in a wheelchair or pushing a buggy to have to deal with this. Not to mention how an ambulance or fire engine would deal with these sorts of things. Some of the things we noticed (and photographed) were:
- Bus routes being blocked by parking on both sides of the road.
- Whole cars parking on footpaths. When did that become legal?
- Cars parking on footpaths and blocking them so pedestrians are forced onto the road.
- Cycle lanes being used for parking.
- Parking on double yellow lines.
- Green areas being used for parking – including the Marina.
- There were no variable message signs being used. The concerts at the Marquee use these to direct people to parking but nothing like this from the GAA.
- The exit from the games is still causing pandemonium. The slow build as fans trickle into the game is fine but Lord help you if you try and travel for the two hours after the game.
- The buses were ineffective as the village was blocked with fans walking back to their cars (all parked in suburban streets).
- The exit of all these private cars chokes the suburban roads and causes the whole traffic network to seize up. No one seems to be dealing with this.
Finally, the attitude of the Gardaí still isn’t up to scratch. We pointed out parking violations to Gardaí on barrier duty – violations that were taking place right under their noses - and got responses like ‘you have to phone Anglesea Street – I can’t do anything’ or ‘I let them park there’. The best one was ‘I’ll ticket them once the match is over’. This is just sloppy and encourages visiting fans to break the law.
A long way to go still.
Each year the School Sports takes place in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, This is a one day event held on a week day. It’s a day when kids from all over the City and County are ferried by Bus and Car to the Stadium, with kids expected to arrive early in time for their heats.
When the Ballintemple area residents association met with Cork County Board regarding traffic management for events taking place in the stadium this day was highlighted by residents and businesses as the worst day for traffic and parking issues. This was also confirmed by Garda Sargent John O’Sullivan who was at the meeting. In response the Cork County Board stated that they leased the premises (pairc ui chaoimh) for that day so parking and traffic management are not their responsibility and are the responsibility of the people running the event.
This year the School Sport were held on May 18th 2012. It turned out to be a very wet Friday so parents were under even more pressure to get their kids and classmates safely to a stadium that a lot of them would not be familiar with. With no traffic management and parking provisions in place it wasn’t long before chaos descended on the areas around the stadium.
Aside from the inconvenience of traffic coming to a standstill during the rush hours of morning, lunchtime and evening, serious health and safety issues arose for the people living and working in the areas and for those attending the School Sports. Vehicles were parked on footpaths, double yellow lines and blocking entrances with people forced off footpaths and onto busy roads and into danger.
Are we to expect more of this when the Cork County Board try and finance their planned redevelopment? The lack of facilities management were still evident 24 hours after the event took place with bins around the stadium still overflowing with rubbish.
This is just a brief up-date of a meeting we had on Thursday 17th May 2012 with Cork City Council and the OKRA Landscape Architects they have appointed to carry out the design of the proposed Marina Park.
The meeting was one of a number they had undertaken with various groups on the day who live in the immediate vicinity of the Marina and the proposed Marina Park.
At the outset it is worth saying that the project team’s willingness to engage with what you might call the ‘stakeholders’ was evident and this made a refreshing change to what we had experienced in relation to the whole sell-off of lands/re-zoning process where it was a real case of ‘their way or the highway’. That said, we were a bit wary that their version of consultation might just be a case of listen-nod-sympathise-ignore as is often the case when it comes to public consultation. We made this fear known to them.
The project group told us that this meeting would be followed up by a wider consultation with a broader section of the community. We thought that this was a good idea as the more they understand about how people (both the immediate residents and the wider community) use the existing areas and how they want the areas developed to meet their needs, both now and in the future, the more acceptable will be their proposals.
Two of our local councillors attended the meeting as well; Cllr. Des Cahill (FG) and Cllr. Denis O’Flynn.
There wasn’t much in the way of detailed plans and all OKRA had to display were their conceptual designs (the ones they’d sketched up in their bid to win the work). These are the drawings that were recently featured on this site and were shown in the Evening Echo. We emphasised that the blatant lack of an open space in these drawings where a family or friends could picnic, puck a ball, throw a Frisbee, fly a kite or just sit about and read under our rarely seen sunny skies was not acceptable to us.
If you’ve seen this conceptual drawing you can see that the overall flow of the proposed park is interrupted by the ‘second GAA pitch’ – the all weather centre of excellence as it’s now being referred to. The drawing was broken down into layers so you could see the areas that would be used for wetlands, for flood management, for activities, for cultural events and so forth. All very nice and soft-focus. One thing that caught our eye was that the only activity spaces were the two GAA pitches: Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the all weather pitch. Both to be fenced off from public access.
This angered us as we felt that every other species, plant and animal, was being included in the conceptual design but the upright, two legged species, the people of the city, were being given no space to exercise or play with their children. The project team told us that the brief they had required that they include this in the design. This was part of our problem with the whole process.
The Council have issued a brief for this work prior to the re-zoning vote and prior to any grant of planning permission that specifically includes the all-weather pitch in this location. A real case of cart before the horse.
To be fair, the project team acknowledged this point and conceded that this was something they could do nothing about. They accepted that the only people who could influence the location of the second pitch were the residents and others who could object through the planning process.
Or the GAA could seek some sort of compromise on the location of this pitch that would allow the proposed park to reach it’s full potential and to allow the GAA to still keep their centre of excellence.
We had some general discussions about the proposed bridge next to the Páirc (something that will take decades to build, if it ever gets built), the water quality in the Atlantic Pond and the phasing of the works.
We concluded by telling them that we thought the engagement was positive and that we would welcome the opportunity to consult with them as much as possible in the future. I think the description we used was that we would travel with them for a far as we could go and hopefully this would be to a point where we would get the public open spaces we were promised when the land was originally purchased and these would fit into a park designed to a very high standard.
City Councillors voted on the 16th April here is the list of Councillors who were on our side.
* Cllr Mick Barry
* Cllr Catherine Clancy
* Cllr Patricia Gosch
* Cllr Des Cahill
* Cllr Denis O’Flynn
* Cllr Chris O’Leary
* Cllr Kieran McCarthy
* Cllr Jim Corr
* Cllr Lorraine Kingston
The full list of Cork City Councillors can be found here. Why not speak to your local representative and let them know that the City needs more green space and not another GAA pitch.