RURAL areas and farmland subsumed into the expanded Cork city will be protected against urban sprawl, the Minister of Agriculture, Michael Creed, has said.
Large swathes of rural land in Glanmire, Ballincollig, Blarney, and Tower became part of the city last month, under the boundary extension. The Irish Farmers’ Association opposed the extension, but City Hall chief executive, Ann Doherty, has said rural areas will be maintained.
Minister Creed has challenged the city council to develop local area plans that incorporate rural life and farmers.
“The world hasn’t changed because the boundary has extended,” Minister Creed told the Echo. “The driving force here was to have a critical mass in the city and greater efficiency and coordination, in terms of transport. I can understand those who felt they were more comfortable with the previous regime, but the world hasn’t fallen in since people from Ballincollig were elected to City Hall and Blarney.
“I’m sure they’ll do a good job and those that farm in those areas will continue to do so, if they so wish. The last thing we would want is urban sprawl from Ovens to Glanmire. The county council worked very well to have clearly identified residential areas in Ballincollig, Blarney, and Bishopstown and that will be part of the future planning arrangements as well, but improving traffic flows and public transport are the big issues,” Minister Creed added.
There are concerns that County Hall will struggle to deliver services after the city expansion, due to reduced rates income from towns like Ballincollig, but Minister Creed said he is confident compensation payments from City Hall will offset the losses.
Large county towns must now become economic hubs for their wider environs, he said. “There is an arrangement about the transfer of resources from the expanded city to the county over the next number of years and that is important. The challenge for the county is to grow alternative hubs.
“We have a network of provincial towns around the county and, with a little bit of ingenuity, foresight and proper planning, can reinvent themselves as hubs for residential use and employment. The agrifood and tourism sectors are significant engines for economic growth and came into their own during a time of crisis in provincial towns like Macroom and I think there are opportunities, now, for these areas.”