A retail outlet village in Cork could be a possibility in the not too distant future following a County Hall decision to amend the County Development Plan 2014 this morning.
Councillors voted 42 for and four against with one abstention by the County Mayor Christopher O’Sullivan 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).
The variation was discussed extensively in the council chamber with a 10-minute recess taken before voting on the amendment.
The motion was proposed by Fine Gael Councillor Micheal Hegarty from Castlemartyr and seconded by Fine Gael Councillor Anthony Barry from Carrigtwohill.
There was some opposition to the motion with Independent Councillor Marcia Dalton saying she has serious concerns about the carbon impact of the potential project and the cost on local towns and villages.
Green Party Councillor Alan O’Connor said that the project was a textbook example of unsustainable development.
Social Democrat Holly Cairns said she wholeheartedly objected to the amendment and expressed concerns for the impact on local jobs and also the carbon impact of a retail village that is thought would be 90% accessed by car.
But Fine Gael Councillor Susan McCarthy said a retail outlet village would hit online shopping over local retailers.
Mrs McCarthy said she was a key part of the local economy in Midleton as her husband runs a local business on the main street.
The Fine Gael Councillor said they were heavily involved in the local community and she firmly believed that a retail outlet park in the Carrigtwohill/Midleton area would not be a cause for concern.
“These villages cater for people travelling specifically for these items.”
Mrs McCarthy said that she knew of people who flew to New York in the boom times to do their Christmas shopping and going to Carrigtwohill is a much better option for the environment than flying to America or buying items online from Tokyo or Hong Kong.
“If we don’t provide the brands, people will go elsewhere, with a much larger carbon footprint,” Mrs McCarthy said.
Local councillor Anthony Barry said it was a fantastic opportunity for East Cork.
“I think this is a huge economic benefit to Cork, where we have huge cruise ship trade. It is the perfect opportunity to economically benefit.
Mr Barry said he frequently uses the Kildare Village and from a sustainability perspective, it was better to have customers travelling locally, which also benefited the local economy.
Fianna Fāil Councillor Seamus McGrath called on the decision to be deferred in order to gather further information and to consider further detail that had been requested.
Chief Executive Tim Lucey said that deferring the decision was not an option legally and the council had to reach a conclusion on the report within a six week period, ending on January 31, four days time.
Mr Lucey said reiterated that it was not a rezoning decision but specific planning guidelines and nothing could actually prevent a planning application from being submitted.
Director of Planning Micheal Lynch highly recommended voting in the amendment and said the area had an enormous catchment of tourism, with almost one million visits made annually to the surrounding attractions including Fota Wildlife Park, Jameson Distillery and the cruise-ship trade.
Following a recess, the council voted in favour of the amendment.
At present, it is understood Rioja Estates, a UK based Designer Outlet Village retail specialist, is interested in opening a retail village in the Carrigtwohill area by 2024.
Rioja Estates has developed or advised on 13 outlets to date and the Carrigtwohill retail village is thought to attract 220,000 visitors to the area, should it be granted planning permission and constructed.