Things are looking up: Planning applications in Cork soar 21%

Things are looking up: Planning applications in Cork soar 21%

CORK city saw a 21% increase in planning applications in 2016, with even further growth expected in 2017.

This represents a huge 40% increase on the previous five-year average as new developments spring up throughout the city centre.

The figures were included in Cork City Council's management report for 2016.

The surge in activity has led construction firms to appeal to expats to return home to fill vacancies in the industry.

The Construction Industry Federation has forecast that as many as 112,000 employees will be needed to fill vacant roles between now and 2020, with some €19bn of construction projects expected to develop over the coming months.

This includes a number of major office developments in Cork city centre, as well as plans for hotels on Sullivan's Quay and South Terrace.

2017 will also see the completion of major city projects, including the Capitol and Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

However, questions are still being asked about planning enforcement in the city centre after just 44 applications were refused by Cork City Council last year.

439 of the 545 applications submitted to the city council were approved last year, 80% of the total number received.

Even more of a concern, according to elected members, are the high numbers of planning retentions.

Current legislation permits those who breach planning guidelines to apply for retention afterwards.

Members of the council say that developers are simply exploiting this loophole, knowing that Cork City Council won't force them to tear down the development afterwards.

Just 13 enforcement notices were served in 2016, according to council documents.

Sinn Féin councillor Chris O'Leary hit out at the local authority's handling of planning retentions, saying the council has never forced someone to tear down a structure after it was put up illegally.

"We haven't hit people hard enough in the pocket," he added.

City officials have reported that 30% of retention cases relate to relatively small irregularities.

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