CORK County Councillors have agreed to seek legal advice following the recent direction from Planning and Local Government Minister Peter Burke to delete a stipulation on the County Development Plan that would end the possibility of the development of the County Retail Outlet Village at Carrigtwohill.
The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR), made the recommendation to Minister Burke.
Mr Burke then instructed chief executive Tim Lucey to delete variation two in the 2014 County Development Plan, which allowed for a location for a retail village to be chosen, ahead of a revised joint retail strategy for Cork Metropolitan Area.
The development by British company Rioja Estates has the potential to create 850 jobs.
The motion to seek legal advice was proposed by councillor Frank O’Flynn and seconded by councillor Michael Hegarty.
Mr O’Flynn stated that "we have to step up and fight for our county" and it drew huge support from the vast majority of the county councillors who voiced their disappointment at the decision by the OPR.
Mr Hegarty claimed the situation has been handled by the OPR and the Minister in a "very poor" and "shabby way".
“It is regrettable we find ourselves in this situation. This is a missed opportunity for the Cork region. It would have helped create employment and provided great tourism benefits.”
Mr Hegarty warned that another local authority will take advantage of this on-going situation in Cork if a solution can’t be found.
Cllr Anthony Barry voiced his anger with the whole process. “I am disgusted at the retail centre issue. We have a robust planning system in place and to be told we cannot even go down that route by an office in Dublin is very disappointing.
“It is disgraceful that Cork hasn’t come out fighting against this decision. Questions have to be asked about our main political leaders in Cork. None of them came out strongly in favour of this project. It will be a huge loss to Cork if this doesn’t happen.”
Green Party councillor Alan O’Connor acknowledged the strong feelings of his colleagues but reaffirmed his belief that ‘this development is unsustainable’ and the ‘study had holes in it as it omitted so many environmental factors’.
County Mayor Mary Linehan Foley revealed she was in full agreement with her fellow councillors on the need to pursue legal advice.
The CEO of Cork County Council Tim Lucey said that it is "the end of the road in terms of policy in this current development plan".
He added: “This is not just for the Cork metropolitan area. It is to serve the entire southern region. We also remain satisfied that the county development plan and variation number constitute an overall strategy for the proper planning of Cork county. There was a justification for it in terms of tourism, economic development and other factors.”
Mr Lucey revealed he was happy to seek legal advice for the councillors.
“We will look at the legal options. I am happy to move ahead and treat this as a matter of urgency on behalf of the councillors,” he added.