Request Made Under European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2011 (AIE Regulations)
Cork City Council FOI Officer
In accordance with the above mentioned regulations I wish to request the following information from Cork City Council relating to the development of the Marina Park and the proposed sale/handover of land, including the land known as the Showgrounds and Marina Hall, to the GAA & Cork County Board for the redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh Stadium and the establishment of a “Centre of Excellence”.
1) All minutes, record notes (formal and informal), e-mails, diary entries and other documents relating to meetings between Cork City Council representatives and/or their agents, GAA representatives and/or their agents, Cork County Board representatives and/or their agents.
2) All minutes, record notes (formal and informal), e-mails, diary entries and other documents relating to that included any or all of the following organisations, companies, their representatives and/or their agents: Redscape, OKRA, O’Connor Sutton Cronin (engineers), Venhoeven CS (architects), Howley Hayes (conservation architects), Fehily Timoney (environment and ecology), Modus Operandi (art consultants), and Davis Langdon PKS (quantity surveyors) or any other members of the Marina Park design team.
3) All minutes of meetings that included any or all of the following organisations, companies, their representatives and/or their agents: Malachy Walsh & Partners, Consulting Engineers and Scott Tallon Walker Architects or any other members of the Pairc Ui Chaoimh redevelopment team.
Please note that according to Article 3 (2) (a) of the Directive, you are obliged to provide the information requested “as soon as possible, or at the latest, within one month” (20 working days) of being requested. I look forward to a response within the time period prescribed.
I would like to have the information provided in electronic form.
The Save Marina Park Group welcomes the recent submission by OKRA Landscape Architects of the Marina Park Draft Masterplan and looks forward to engaging in meaningful consultation with the City Council and other stakeholders in the coming weeks. From the information available to us at this stage it appears that the proposed Marina Park has been designed exclusively with the needs of the stadium redevelopment plan in mind.
The proposed Marina Park needs to cater for the recreational needs of a broad spectrum of users from the daily local user to the once-a-year GAA fan. However these proposals seem skewed towards the needs of the stadium which lies idle for 93% of the year.
Illustrating this is the fact that the amount of land allocated to public sports facilities is equivalent to a tennis court-sized space and lies in the path of a planned road (Eastern Gateway approach) and the remaining green area is compromised by the development needs of the stadium.
We hope that through consultation these matters can be clarified and a proper balance serving the needs of all stakeholders can be achieved for the benefit of Cork, its environs and its people.
Note to editor: The Save Marina Park Group was formed following a public meeting in October 2011 arranged by Cllr.Des Cahill (FG) and attended by Cllr. Denis O’Flynn (LAB), Cllr. Chris O’Leary (SF) and Bob Ryan of the GAA Cork County Board that highlighted the proposed re-zoning issue and the proposed re-development of the stadium.
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.
Definition of a Centre of Excellence “Centres of excellence are characteristically strategic facilities providing a range of pitches both natural grass and more frequently synthetic surface for senior and juvenile coaching and training as well as ancillary amenities. They serve the catchment of a whole county and are of a sufficient scale to make them readily distinguishable from club facilities.
Therefore they require large sites and a number of potential sites must be excluded from
consideration. There are increasingly becoming a number of features provided within centres of excellence. These include:
- A substantial number of pitches
- Synthetic pitches which are preferably “third generation”.
- Hurling alleys
- Indoor sports hall
- Coach and car parking & accessibility
Examples of GAA Centres of Excellence from around the Country.
- Three sand based engineered playing pitches complete with irrigation sytem
- One fibrous sand training area for sprint, strength and stamina work as well as ball work;
- One gravel raft engineered pitch complete with pop up irrigation system;
- All pitches and training area will be floodlit with lux levels varying from 250lux to 500lux;
- Three Croke Park size natural playing pitches
- Two third generation synthetic pitches
- Hurling wall and warm up area.
- Space for 260 cars and 7 coaches
- Six all-weather natural grass pitches,
- One synthetic pitch,
- A running track, a clubhouse,
- An indoor pitch,
- Handball courts,
- Hurling walls
In Cork, the largest County in Ireland, the Cork County Board plans for a Centre of Excellence consist of one synthetic playing pitch in one of the least accessible areas in Cork City with no parking provision and a high level of local opposition to the development as it severs the planned Marina Park. The Cork County Board have choosen this route even though they have a large parcel of land in Kilbarry, North Cork suitable in terms of accessibility and size for a state of art Centre of Excellence that would rival those seen in other Countys.