‘The nation will be watching’ a special meeting at County Hall on Friday to discuss the Tourist Outlet Village proposal for East Cork.
Fine Gael Councillor Anthony Barry said the decision made on the Tourist Outlet Village will be watched countrywide as the implications of the Office of Planning Regulator (OPR) intervening in a local planning matter is played out.
The Carrigtwohill Councillor said this is a very important meeting in relation to the power of the OPR to intervene in local planning decisions.
“I think there is a constitutional issue with this,” he said. “The OPR is overreaching as a regulator to an enforcer.”
In January, the councillors voted to vary the Development Plan to provide strategic planning policy support for the provision of a Retail Outlet Centre in the N25 Corridor area, (Midleton-Carrigtwohill area).
A UK-based company, Rioja Estates, is looking to build the project, which it says would create more than 850 permanent jobs and a further 640 during the construction of the village.
Following on from this, the planning regulator wrote to the Minister for Housing and Urban Development Damien English asking him to intervene and revert the Development Plan amendment.
A report is now being compiled by the Chief Executive for the Minister before a final decision is made by the Minister and the councillors will make their case on Friday as to why the Kildare Village style centre should be given the green light.
Mr Barry said he accepts the OPR calling for the city and county to work together on a joint retail strategy, but said the city pulled out of those discussions and asked: “How can you have a joint strategy if one of the players isn’t going to dance?”
The Fine Gael councillor said he thought the park would be a great asset to the retail and tourism aspect of East Cork and reminded people that a report had been carried out that found little impact would be felt by the city centre in relation to this development.
In contrast, Green Party Councillor Alan O’Connor is opposing the retail outlet centre.
“I opposed it when the vote was originally held, and I remain opposed to it,” he said. Although it isn’t ideal that a decision of the council is overruled, the OPR is fulfilling its purpose of ensuring that development in the county is sustainable, by making its recommendation to the minister that the recent variation to the county’s development plan be cancelled.
“Our future economic prosperity lies within our existing town centres, and our need to move in an environmentally sustainable direction is incompatible with car-led/car-dependent development.”