Construction industry in Cork demand upgrades to our road and water network

Construction industry in Cork demand upgrades to our road and water network
A computer generated image of the planned new Dunkettle Interchange.

MAJOR infrastructure works are needed to bring land marked for housing development up to scratch.

Construction experts in Cork said that issues with roads and water are hindering progress in major housing developments throughout the city and county.

Conor O'Connell, regional director at the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), said that there is a shortage of suitable development land which is holding back the construction of new homes throughout Cork.

He said, "The land that is available is, in some cases, problematic.

If you look at land that is zoned for housing in Midleton, Glanmire and Ballincollig, there are sites that have issues in water supply, waste water, access roads. There is a multitude of issues in some cases."

Mr O'Connell said that a major programme of investment in public infrastructure is needed to bring many of the sites up to scratch.

"In Cork, there is also a major problem in that our roads are over capacity," he added.

"There have been a number of developments rejected because of traffic concerns - and that is what makes projects like the N28 and Dunkettle absolutely essential. Over the last number of years, we have seen no investment in these projects and it is causing problems now."

The CIF regional chief said that there is a general upturn in the market in Cork, though he warned that it is not enough of an improvement yet.

"There has been an increase in commencements in the first half of 2017 in comparison to last year but we need to be building 3,000 homes per year in Cork to meet demand. We will not hit that this year," he said.

In its pre-budget submission, CIF has also called for a reduction of the VAT on new homes from 13% to 9%, claiming the move would make development more commercially viable.

They have also called for the introduction of a development fund for small and medium developers looking to access the market and the retention of the help-to-buy scheme, despite claims from some corners that the latter has contributed to a rise in house prices.

Mr O'Connell said, "It is essential for many people in getting a deposit and accessing the market."

New housing minister Eoghan Murphy conceded that the scheme, introduced by his predecessor Simon Coveney, may be scrapped under the government's revised housing policy, which is expected later this year.

However, Mr O'Connell said that the issues in the market are not connected to the help-to-buy scheme, "The price increases are because of the second-hand market, not first-time buyers," he said.

"The statistics show that the vast majority of sales are in the second-hand market and it is impossible to cap or limit sales there."

The CIF chief has also called for central government to offer better supports to local authorities when it comes to developing wide-scale housing projects.

Mr O'Connell commended efforts by Cork City Council to bring new social housing to the market but said the central government needs to offer further support at local level.

In recent months, Cork City Council got planning permission for more than 160 new homes throughout the city centre, including sites at Barrack St and White St.

In all, eight sites will be developed in a project which includes revamping many old and, in some cases, derelict buildings.

The local authority has already begun a second competitive dialogue process, reaching out to building owners in the hope of securing more sites for development in the coming months.

Mr O'Connell said, "This sort of dialogue is very welcome but more support is needed. These schemes need to be expanded and more local authorities need to follow Cork's example because there is a pressing need for more social housing.

"Local authorities need to be given additional funding for the provision of social housing and schemes like this make that a possibility."

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