The New Cork: city expands tonight to include 85,000 new citizens

The New Cork: city expands tonight to include 85,000 new citizens
The boundary of Cork city will expand tonight to take in Ballincollig, Glanmire, Douglas, Grange, Frankfield, Togher and Blarney.Pics: Tom Coakley, 

EXPANDING Cork City’s boundary will allow Leeside to grow in a sustainable manner and ensure a vibrant city with jobs, improved transport systems, and better services, according to City Hall officials.

From midnight major parts of the Cork suburbs move from the county to the city.

They include:

  • 85,000 new citizens
  • 70 - 80 community, voluntary and environmental groups 
  • 473km of roads 
  • 10,000+ street lights 
  • 89 bridges 
  • 44 zebra crossings 
  • 990 council houses 
  • Nine cemeteries 
  • Six playgrounds 
  • Seven public parks 
  • Three libraries 
  • One fire station

City council chief executive Ann Doherty said the next couple of decades will see huge growth in Cork, to run in tandem with the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 plan.

She believes the expansion of the city will have major long-term benefits for the people of Cork and she assured citizens in former county areas that their sense of community and identity will not be compromised.

“I would be confident we’ll see a really strengthened public transport system,” Ms Doherty told The Echo. “There will be a lot more focus on quality space for people, and I would hope we’ll remain very economically competitive, and we will continue to attract jobs to the city, and that the Docklands will be developed out, and Tivoli will be a new neighbourhood in the city.

“I also hope we’ll have a strong connection with Ballincollig, Curraheen and Bishopstown through the development of the Science and Innovation Park.

The Ballincollig Regional Park is now in Cork city. Picture: Mike English
The Ballincollig Regional Park is now in Cork city. Picture: Mike English

“Swinging north of the city, I hope we will continue to see a sustainable growth pattern of business and residents and we will still have beautiful and rural spaces in Blarney and Tower.”

The director of transition services for the city council, David Joyce, who has overseen plans to take on services in former county areas — and restructuring of Cork City Council itself — said the land transfer is a watershed moment for Cork.

“For the first time ever at a national level, the importance of Cork has been recognised by the Ireland 2040 Project,” said Mr Joyce. “It really is an opportunity for all of Cork to really push forward. It’s a very, very exciting time.

“We’ve taken the opportunity to restructure the city council. We have completely reorientated the organisation to better serve the people. We will, for the first time, have local areas committee meetings. It’s moving the decisions closer to the people and getting the communities involved and getting them to interact with their councillors.

“We have set up a department completely dedicated to operations and delivering services and one of the key tenets of that is the new community, culture and placemaking directorate. This is going to be the face of the local authority. This should make interacting with your local authority much easier, going forward. We have also set up a strategic arm.”

This new directorate will encompass forward planning; economic development; transport planning; climate change and tourism.

Fearghal Reidy, recently appointed from Waterford City and County Council, has taken up the role of director of strategic and economic development. He said the new directorate is where forward thinking and planning will be formed.

“We want to make sure the city is vibrant and there are jobs in the future, so we need to be innovative,” said Mr Reidy. “We want to ensure that people can live in the city in a comfortable way with a quality of life, good services, good transport. It’s important that people are part of a city that they can relate to.

“For people in Ballincollig, Tower and Blarney, they have their own identity, but they use the facilities in the city as well, so it’s important that they have a bigger say now.”

Both Ms Doherty and Mr Joyce have stressed the new city areas will not just become extended wards of the city and every effort will be made to accommodate them on their own terms.

Mr Joyce said: “There are already very strong linkages between the city and the county. It was the ’60s and ’70s that the northside of the city was built. Most people’s children are now living in Blarney and Tower, so you already have a massive relationship. The grandparents are still in the city, their grown-up children are in the county, and now their children are teenagers and they want to be back in the city, so there is a very interesting dynamic there. They are the same community living in different areas.”

Douglas village was previously part of the county. Pic: Larry Cummins
Douglas village was previously part of the county. Pic: Larry Cummins

Ms Doherty added: “One of the most important things is that we must realise that all these population groupings are neighbourhoods and communities in their own right. We want to make sure that their uniqueness is protected, preserved and also strengthened. That’s already happened in the existing city, where communities are really strong in places like Togher, Knocknaheeny and Blackrock. We want the same for Ballincollig, Blarney, Tower and Glanmire. That’s a really important message. Cities are about community, people, and place.

“It’s going to be a city of scale. I’m confident that we have a great team of people and we’ve had colleagues for Cork County Council transfer over to us that know those areas really, really well, and that network, combined with our own staff, will be able to provide the level of service that currently exists in those areas.”

City council officials have already begun restructuring frontline relations with citizens and Mr Joyce said there will be no change in the standard of services, while a new customer service unit will “revolutionise” how the public interacts with the local authority.

“Whatever services people had yesterday, they will have today,” said Mr Joyce. “If there is a pothole, it will be filled, the parks will be open and public lights will be turned on. All those operational issues we have gone into detail on and we’re confident we’ll maintain the standard.

“We are reorganising the local authority to be customer focused. As part of the new community, culture and placemaking directorate, we are putting together a dedicated customer service unit which will involve a unit of highly trained staff who will act as the front face to the city council. The whole idea is to orientate us toward the customers, to make sure that when a citizen rings, the phone is answered and you get through to a competent person.”

Ms Doherty praised the work of Cork County Council officials and staff in facilitating the transfer of services and staff and encouraged people to interact with Cork City Council in order to promote and enhance their areas.

“There is a huge change,” she said. “We are very committed to making it work as seamlessly as possible and, if anybody does experience difficulty, call us and we will do our utmost to address it.

“We are looking forward to our new council with our newly elected and re-elected members coming in and we have a service plan. There are a lot of changes happening at the same time and there will potentially be some setbacks along the way and that is understandable in a time of change.

“We’ve done everything possible to reduce the risks of things not going well. We want to reinforce our commitment to deliver the very best service we can within the resources that are available to us.”

After years of debate and negotiations, Cork’s boundary has changed today. Robert McNamara speaks to City council chief executive Ann Doherty about the change and future plans for the city.

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