THE LATEST delay in plans for the events centre has been branded a “joke” with business groups warning the city centre traders can’t wait much longer for construction to commence.
City businesses say they are losing out on potentially millions of Euros of revenue with Cork Chamber stating that for every €1 spent on events tickets in Ireland an additional €6 of revenue is brought to the immediate area.
City Hall planners have asked developers Bam to return with a report on the potential impact of the development on two conservation areas in Cork Harbour after it already supplied significant further information on their events centre proposal, including a modified design.
However, Bam has received notice that it must supply a Natura Impact Statement on the impact to the Cork Harbour Special Protected Area (SPA) and the Great Island Channel Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
They have been given until January to return the information.
Even if Cork City Council grant permission after the latest round of requested extra information, any decision could be appealed to An Bord Pleanála by the developers or by anyone who made submissions on the plans meaning further delays are a possibility.
Cork Business Association (CBA) CEO Lawrence Owens said he has been left “baffled” by the latest delay. The CBA will speak with City Hall chief executive Ann Doherty today in a meeting arranged prior to the delay being made public.
“The event centre was originally not on the agenda for that meeting but it is now, among other things,” said Mr Owens.
“The latest announcement is baffling. How many years are we into the project and they are now issuing guidance on water quality? I would have seen these as basic fundamental issues which are dealt with at the early stages of the project.
“It’s bizarre, you couldn’t make it up. The time for niceties is gone. If we’re told it’s not happening fine, we move on to the next phase but there is a lot of energy that is being expended and here we have another six-month delay. It’s a joke,” Mr Owens added.
Cork Chamber, director of public affairs Thomas McHugh said the impact on local businesses is that opportunities to generate vital revenue are lost.
“This delay offers no comfort to a tourism and hospitality sector that is already feeling the effects of Brexit on visitor numbers due to factors such as the weakened pound."
"To build resilience and attractiveness for our region we must invest in our cultural infrastructure and provide certainty to current operators and investors alike. For every €1 spent on tickets in Ireland an additional €6 of revenue is generated in the wider economy and each delay represents an opportunity lost,” Mr McHugh added.
Last month, council officials confirmed that they had met with secretary-general to the Government and the secretary-general of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser on two occasions and have said there are still challenges for the project around “design uncertainty”, public funding and the inflation rate on construction costs.
Restaurants Association of Ireland CEO Adrian Cummins said the delay is a blow for tourism in Cork.
"It is very disappointing that the Cork Events Centre is facing yet another delay. The Events Centre will attract investment and tourists into Cork, which is needed to ensure that there is not a two-tier system for tourism in this country.”