SIMON Coveney has said the planned delivery of three new hospitals and a raft of investments in roads and infrastructure will ‘change the face of the city dramatically’.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs told a Cork Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing that “25% of the city’s footprint has yet to be build and much will be built in the next 25 years.”
Following the launch of the National Planning Framework (NPF) in Sligo on Friday, Mr Coveney spelt out in greater detail what it would mean for Cork city and county.
He described an optimistic vision of the city’s growth over the next 20 years, with significant investment in a number of major projects.
The Cork-Limerick motorway had previously been announced, but Mr Coveney confirmed it would be accompanied by major work on the Northern Ring Road.
“We are going to do half of the Northern Ring Road, the eastern half which will link the motorway from Limerick with the motorway from Dublin,” he said.
“I think that is the important site to get done first.
“The Northern Ring Road is a €400m project. This is not a small project. It is more expensive than the M28 and the M22 combined and so we simply couldn’t get it all in that time period.
“But if we have a motorway coming in from Limerick we can’t simply bring it into Blackpool with the current infrastructure that is there. We are going to need a significant junction there and a dual carriageway going east to the Dunkettle infrastructure.”
There are also plans for major investment in health facilities.
“We effectively have funding for three new hospitals for Cork city,” he said.
“A new dental hospital linked to UCC, under the education budget, an elective-only hospital, and a new general hospital for Cork, which is likely to be a partnership between the Mercy and the South Infirmary. We have €260m in place for that new hospital.”
It is all part of a strategy to rebalance Ireland, with Cork and the southern region forming a counterbalance to Dublin’s dominance as the population grows by a million in the next two decades.
“Cork is going to be the fastest-growing city and fastest growing-region in this country for the next 20 years,” Mr Coveney said.
“We are going to change the face of this city dramatically and also change the impact of the Cork region in terms of its place nationally.
“Cork city and suburbs is going to have the same amount of population growth as Galway, Waterford and Limerick combined.”
€200m will be invested in Cork’s bus service, and there will be a focus on promoting the city centre as a place to live, not just to work.
€90m invested in the Port of Cork would ‘clear the way for significant docklands development over the next 10 years’.
“We need to drive the vast majority of our new development still within the current city boundaries even though we well of course see population growth happening outside that in the broader city area as well,” he said.
“Just because we draw a boundary that brings a whole lot of new areas into the city doesn’t mean we fill it with houses. That would fundamentally undermine the stability of the city.
“Instead we will see a lot of new buildings along the quayside, much higher buildings, buildings that can follow the lead of The Elysian. In my view The Elysian will be pretty commonplace along our quayside, we may well go well above it.”
Mr Coveney said his aim was that at the end of the investment programme Cork would offer ‘a real alternative to Dublin’.
“I was thinking about what Cork city looked like 20 years ago when I got into politics,” he said.
“Essentially it doesn’t look that different but in 20 years time it will look dramatically different.”