FUNDING certainty has been achieved on the events centre but the Government will not provide a blank cheque for what will now be a “bigger and better” project, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.
Following talks between the Government, operators Live Nation, developers BAM and Cork City Council, an “understanding” of the cost has been reached but Mr Coveney said he could not reveal a definitive figure.
However, he said it will now cost more than the original €80 million figure that was cited when the sod was turned on the South Main Street site in 2016.
Mr Coveney said the process regarding funding has been simplified and all aspects have been brought under one stream which has removed legal barriers. However, he stated there will be a cap on funding.
“There is never a blank cheque in this process. It has always been dogged with delays because there has always been a checking system around transparency, accountability and value for money.
“There’s a good understanding of what this is going to cost.
"It will cost more than what was originally envisaged but the project is a lot bigger so I think there is a clear understanding now involving all partners, including BAM, of what the Government is prepared to put into this project that is sufficient to get this done.
“I’m not going to talk in definitive terms about amounts of money because I can’t do that until the contract has been finalised but the Government is very clear about that this is going to cost.
“Live Nation has committed more money too and we are now comfortable the Government can fund this - in terms of public funding - and Cork City Council can be confident in that which will allow them to move ahead in the processes that are needed to get it done.
"Effectively this will be managed now by the project team at Cork City Council,” he added.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Fine Gael’s annual think-in in Garryvoe that the Government remains “absolutely committed” to the project.
“We think it is going to be transformational for the city and we are really 100% behind it. It has developed into a much bigger project than was originally intended.
"We are confident it will secure planning permission in October.
After that, we have simplified the structure so Cork City Council will become the lead agency to deliver the project and will receive funding through the Department of Local Government in order to make this a reality and that will be done from the existing capital ceilings.”
The Tánaiste said he believes this will allow businesses in Cork city to operate with more confidence with regard to investment but cautioned that he believes the public will remain sceptical about the project until the centre is built.
“I hope now that a lot of people that have been waiting to make investments in their own businesses - such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and hotels, on the back of the business that will be generated by an event centre of this scale - it will give them more confidence to move ahead with their plans.
“I think the public will only fully really believe this when they see it being built.
"I accept that but there is no strategic timing in this for me. We’ve been trying to get this across the line month after month after month.
"My only objective is to provide the certainty that Cork City Council, Live Nation and Bam need in order to invest huge sums of money in building this 6,000 seater centre in the middle of Cork city.
“We now have agreed approach that is also agreed with the stakeholders including the main Government departments and Cork City Council. The approach will now be much more straightforward,” he added.
The previous funding package for the event centre included €21 million of Government grant aid, €9 million of a repayable loan and another €6.5 million planned for public realm works.
Last August, BAM submitted a fresh planning application for the South Main St project.
The amended application included an increase in height, as well as 2,000 sq m of office space.
In October last year, planners in City Hall wrote to BAM asking for significant further information on the project, including a specific proposed construction timeline.
Planners also said they had a “serious concern” about the extent of “dead frontage” arising from the location of the service yard and the lack of live uses on South Main Street.
BAM was told to submit revised plans to reduce the dead frontage facing the street and the Counting House Square.
“This will necessitate the inclusion of publicly accessible live uses on the ground floor and increased transparency into the building in order to integrate it more successfully with South Main Street and to animate the quayside.”
In July, BAM lodged their response which planners in City Hall have been examining in recent weeks.
Planning permission for the revised plans is expected to be decided on next month.