Opinion: Public forum on Cork harbour development vital for its future

Is Cork Harbour at a tipping point of balance in regard to public interest, community rights and the economic demands?
Opinion: Public forum on Cork harbour development vital for its future

A regular public forum about harbour development, with statutory involvement for community residents’ representative groups, would be a progressive approach from State and local authorities, Tom MacSweeney believes. 

CURRABINNY Wood has one of the most prominent and beautiful locations overlooking Cork Harbour.

Walking through it gave me an “old world” feeling. Time seemed to stand still.

Perhaps that comes from the wood being traced back to the Bronze Age, about 1500 BC. There is a grave cairn believed to go back that far and there is a legend about Currabinny - that a giant once lived in the area and was buried on a hill at the highest point of the wood.

There are several paths running through the wood. Walking them gives views of the harbour through the peaceful, quiet, vista of the diversity of tree species. The wood and its vision of nature culminate in the architecture of the dominant terrace of houses overlooking Currabinny Pier and across the Owenabue to Crosshaven.

Looking out across the harbour from Currabinny, which can also be spelled ‘Curraghbinny’, the vista underlines for me that achieving a balance that accommodates economic growth and industrial development, and protects the resident communities and the heritage of Cork Harbour is not an easy task.

There are views from the wood which take in Ringaskiddy, Gobby Beach, Spike Island and the wider harbour towards Cobh, Whitegate and Aghada.

I appreciated the harbour’s resource, thinking about how it is subject to so many potentially competing demands and wondered how they can best be dealt with.

From research to pharma around Cork harbour

From Ringaskiddy Wood to Gobby Beach and the new Haulbowline public park, a good public facility at the edge of the naval base, I went to the new slipway at Paddy’s Point.

The MaREI Centre, the Beaufort Building, a leading marine research institute; the IMERC maritime energy cluster; the National Maritime College and the new deepwater port facilities are all visible from there, a swathe of maritime hub investment.

Visible also is the area’s pharmaceutical industry and the new deepwater port’s export and import facilities. They all underline that this is a place of largescale, high technology manufacturing plants and maritime activity.

Balance of interests

Is Cork Harbour at a tipping point of balance in regard to public interest, community rights and the economic demands?

Can these diverse interests be married in the best interests of all concerned?

How are Cork County Council and government dealing with the compatibility of these demands, subject to the principles of proper planning and sustainable development and having regard to community residential rights and needs and the protection and natural heritage areas, of which Gobby Beach and Spike Island would be part?

I have received a lot of contacts and comments since I raised in this column a few weeks ago the question of the naval base and the threat to its operations posed by the Indaver incinerator proposal. Its proposed location borders on Gobby Beach.

Spike Island has been given much public investment in re-developing it as a major tourist destination in the lower harbour, envisaged as part of a group of heritage and tourism attractions. Haulbowline Island, the State’s only naval base is of strategic importance. What about the resident communities who live permanently in the midst of all of this?

Does State and local authority assessment sufficiently take into consideration, for example, that Ringaskiddy is a peninsular area in its physical situation with limited road access and exit, even allowing for the proposed new road network?

It should.

Resident concerns 

Residents and community representatives around the harbour have told me there is still remaining concern about the fire at the R&H Hall facility in Ringaskiddy Port on Saturday, January 9. Huge plumes of smoke hung over the area for many hours and drifted into adjacent community areas. There was uncertainty and fear amongst residents because of unsatisfactory communication with them during the emergency.

One of the “significant issues,” expressed to me is that there is renewed concern about the emergency plan for residents of the harbour area and how that is communicated.

A regular public forum about harbour development, with statutory involvement for community residents’ representative groups, would be a progressive approach from State and local authorities.

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