You can read the City Manager’s Report here
Our response to the Manager’s Report
The Manager’s report to the Councillors does not address the issues and concerns of the objectors. It makes no effort to address any of them in a meaningful way. The one item it does propose to address – the severing of the proposed park by building the all weather pitch in the proposed location- is done in such a weak and opaque way as to be meaningless. It is typical planning double-speak that means nothing to the public or the Councillors.
Given the level of objection to the proposed variation the report doesn’t even make an effort to broker a compromise solution that would resolve the objectors (all citizens and voters) concerns while working to achieve the objectives of the proposed variation. As opposed to some sort of win-win solution the Manager’s report had opted for a winner takes all strategy. This can only set the parties on a collision course as the proposals develop over time.
The other points worth noting that the Councillors should be made aware of as the consequence of voting in favour of the existing variation with no change will be far reaching:
- Point 2: The definition of ‘a centre of excellence’ in the current development plan (called objective SD 64) and the current proposal to take the heart of a new park and transfer it to private ownership and a second pitch do not sit well with each other. What is a centre of excellence? How is it defined? Is it treatment room, indoor gyms and physiotherapy facilities or is it an astro-turf pitch? It seems to be being used as some sort of umbrella term for building a second pitch. Training on astro-turf for an inter-county player will be of little use as all league and championship games are played on grass turf. Given the size of County Cork it seems ridiculous to make all elite players travel to this location when a location on the N25 (The South Ring Road) would make much more sense and be cheaper.
- Point 4: The objectors highlight the fact that the proposal changes public open space to a private sports ground. The manager’s report doesn’t even address this. The response is that it is ‘noted’. This should be addressed in a revision to the report. This ignores one of the main concerns of the residents.
- Point 5: The CPO for the showground purchase made a very strong point about the fact that the land was required for the Marina park and that this would be the only public sector project in the docklands. This would ‘anchor’ the area and create a sub-regional park (i.e. a park for the enjoyment of the whole southeast sector or cork including the county suburbs). The manager’s report now states that this open space will be provided following the production of 5 more reports. Someone is making a fortune off the back of these reports to tell us what we already know. How residents of the docklands are supposed to take a stroll out by the kinsale road landfill is a mystery. This reply from the manager makes a mockery of the CPO proposals and still undermines the docklands as a residential area by turning public open space into private playing fields.
- Point 6: The manager’s response and apparent compromise is written in planning mumbo-jumbo. A current map of the showgrounds will show you that the Maria Park would be over 100m wide at the area proposed to be re-zoned for a second pitch. The re-zoning will reduce this to about 10m. How you can achieve visual and physical linkage should be shown to councillors on a map.
- Point 7: Having an all weather pitch and stands in an area subject to floods every 10 years will lead to faster run-off and increased flooding. We have seen the devastation that tidal and river flooding can bring to the city and building on a polder (and area of reclaimed land designed to flood) such as the marina park will cause more extreme flooding in the surrounding areas. Unless all surfaces are porous (all-weather pitches are not porous) this will cause flooding. The OPW report suggest that costs of up to €300m may be required to be spent ensuring that the city is adequately protected from flooding.
- Point 8: the manager’s report ignores this most serious of issues. How can a city continue to function if millions of Euros are committed to buying the showgrounds for a public park and then they are sold at a fraction of this cost? How do you finance the purchase of new lands? And where are these new lands? Is there a map with suitable lands anywhere?
- Point 10: The Manager’s report does not consider the City Council’s responsibility to the local community under sections 64 and 127 of the Local Government Act 2001. These sections of the Act allow for the City Council to (among other things) carry out public opinion surveys of the local community, facilitate the involvement of the local community in local government, the making of decisions that represent the views of the local community, allow the local community to attend and raise issues of concern at meetings of the councillors, to allow the City Council to hold information meetings to inform the local community. The manager seems to be doing everything in his power to suppress the rights of the local community and to steamroll this variation through the Council.
- Finally, the councillors should be aware that before any vote they should consider any membership or interest they may have and declare it. There is legislation ranging from the local government act 2001 to the Local Elections (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act 1999 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 and Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 that governs this issue. If the register of interests is not up to date and subsequently it is discovered that a councillor has a conflict of interest then it will do great damage to the City Council and may lead to prosecution of the member.
- Active Citizenship: Section128 of the Local Government Act 2001 allows the Council to formally recognise the Ballintemple Area Residents Association in order to promote active dialogue between the residents and the City Council. To date this has not happened and is a strong signal that the City Council and the manager are not interested in the voice and concerns of the citizens but instead put the interests of other private groups before those of the citizens.