The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has been criticised for “sticking its nose in” and recommending that Cork County Council should abandon changes to its development plan that would facilitate a €100m retail outlet village near Carrigtwohill.
It was revealed on Monday that the state’s planning watchdog claimed the proposed change to the development plan, which would facilitate a Kildare Village-type outlet in Carrigtwohill, was inconsistent with the Government’s guidelines on retail planning.
UK property firm Rioja Estates announced its plans last month for the tourist outlet village, which would create over 850 direct jobs and attract more than 200,000 additional visitors to the region annually.
However, the Planning Regulator has thrown a spanner in the works, claiming the development, which was earmarked to open in 2024, would be premature pending two other major projects in the region.
Local councillor Anthony Barry (FG) told The Echo he is “appalled” at the regulator's recommendation.
“It’s bad enough that the OPR is enforcing planning densities for housing that are totally inappropriate for the Carrigtwohill/Midleton region,” he said.
“Carrigtwohill is one of the fastest growing towns in the country and that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Yet, here we have a fantastic retail offering for the region and the OPR are sticking their nose in and saying it’s not compliant with the plan,” he added.
“Sorry now, it might not be compliant with some plan formulated up in Dublin but we do our own work here and it completely undermines local government.
“It’s a slap in the face for the whole Cork region.
“This is a retail offering that should be available here in Cork.
“A huge amount of people go to Kildare to avail of the one there.
“I would much prefer to see the money supporting local jobs and the local economy here in Cork.
“I don’t like this idea that a cabal in Dublin can come along and outline what should be happening down here.”
Cllr Barry said he takes issue with “this approach from the OPR that ‘we know best and you lot don’t know what you’re doing’.”
He pointed to OPR housing policies in the Carrigtwohill/Midleton region as a reason to keep the office out of Cork decisions.
“That’s self-evident with the apartment block that is lying empty in Carrigtwohill - an absolute disgrace in the middle of a housing crisis and no one deems it viable to finish the apartment block.
“Yet the OPR views that more of this type of development should be taking place along the railway corridor when there is clearly no demand for it.
“Here we are trying to build housing and, if you look at East Cork, there’s nothing happening except for social housing despite the huge growth that is expected in the region - growth the planning regulator will not take on board.”