CORK’S northern suburbs are set for major projects in the coming months and years that could transform the northside, according to two city councillors.
Cork city’s most underprivileged neighbourhoods are Churchfield, Gurranabraher, Fairhill, Farranree, Farranferris, and Knocknaheeny, along with Mayfield, The Glen, and Blackpool, according to information compiled by Cork City Council’s ‘Cork City: Neighbourhood Profiles’.
Not only this, but many amenities such as hospitals, universities, and public parks are located disproportionately on the southside. However, steps are being taken to balance the scales somewhat.
Green Party councillor Oliver Moran said the issue has been debated at Cork City Council and “the degree to which the differences between north and south of the city are designed. The outcome of that design may not be intentional but the choices and decisions behind it are,” he said.
“An example of the kind of decision that people point to is the pattern of social housing in the city. That has a very clear north-south pattern, especially in the area of the ‘old city’ boundary. In areas like Mayfield, the Glen, Shandon, Churchfield, Fair Hill, and Farranree between a quarter and a third of housing is social housing. In Knocknaheeny, it’s over a half. That pattern didn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t have a comparison anywhere on the southside, except Mahon.
“It’s one of the reasons I love the northside. In many ways, it’s a much more diverse and richer place to live but that decision also means there is a skew in the concentration of relative advantage and disadvantage north and south.
"That skew can be seen reflected in measures of advantage and disadvantage, whether its income, health, education, or disability,” he explained.
According to the Pobal HP Deprivation Index, the worst affeted areas in Cork city were Knocknaheeny with a count of -15.96; Farranree/Farranferris, -15.36; Churchfield/Gurranabraher, -15.07; Fair Hill, -14.73; Mayfield, -10.21, and The Glen, -9.04. In the southside, only Mahon and Ballyphehane are noted as having deprived areas on the index.
“For people looking from the northside, they sometimes see that advantage played out in other ways,” Mr Moran explained. “The hospitals are on the southside, the universities are on the southside, the largest parks and the best playgrounds are on the southside. So, I think we need we need focused investment to follow in the northside too.
“The locating of the new (elective) hospital in Glanmire will help and the UCC campus expanding into the distillery buildings on the North Mall will help too.
"The St Luke’s area and the Victorian Quarter are shining examples of the northside, very genuine to itself and really vibrant in its personality.
"The investment that BusConnects has announced into designing the public realm of Blackpool will be a great opportunity. The Shandon area has enormous cultural potential too.
“We also need green spaces. The Glen River Park is a model that can be expanded upon, linking Blackpool and Mayfield, and can be replicated in areas like Murphy’s Rock as well. I think it’s very important for the city not to allow the opportunity that’s before it now to pass it by and to purchase Ennismore for a park. We need to develop a North West regional park as well.
“The state will be a big player in housing in the years ahead and the northside of the city will expand. I think new models for public housing can help, like affordable housing and cost rental. That’s no reason to reduce the investment in the social housing model but rather to expand the areas where the state is involved in housing.
“The first affordable and cost-rental houses in the city are on the northside in Glanmire, Montenotte, Tower, and Mayfield. The Land Development Agency are redeveloping St Kevin’s (in Shanakiel) and have a landbank on Dublin Hill as well that can be used for affordable housing. We have an opportunity to redress the deplorable conditions for Travellers at Spring Lane as well.
“Irish Rail are working on a high-frequency commuter rail. That will re-open Blackpool station with 10-minute frequency commuter rail. Longer term, the Port of Cork will decant from Tivoli and there is an opportunity there to develop a whole new urban town on the northside.
“That’s the kind of direction I think we can go in that’s both true to the northside and begins to turn the tide on the imbalance that’s been designed in so far,” added Mr Moran.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Tony Fitzgerald lives in Knocknaheeny. He said parts of the city have their challenges, but huge progress will be made following the extension of the city boundaries.
“The northside of the city will become a new city in terms of major infrastructure. Major plans are underway at the minute with Iarnród Éireann with the signalling at Kent Station to open up the railway line to Blackpool, Monard, and Blarney.”
A northern ring road is “off the shelf” and is being prepared for design, said Mr Fitzgerald. Other projects include a landbank now available on the northside, giving the city “huge potential” in terms of its development plan. In housing, every application that has been made to the Department “has been approved” in the northside.
Mr Fitzgerald said there are a myriad of programmes in health, education, and social housing that will transform the northside. “UCC has moved in to St Mary’s campus in the last couple of weeks, opening their GP training unit in Gurranabraher. This is a major milestone in terms of UCC moving to the northside of the city.”
Mr Fitzgerald said he is optimistic for the northside.
“Like every other area there are challenges. We need to look at the methodology in terms of the census. Are we asking the right questions in terms of the people attending third level education?” The number of students attending UCC right across the city, seems to be much higher than is evident from the census analysis, he said.
“I think the future is bright. We need to keep the commitment going. We need to focus on people’s needs.”
The expansion of Apple, at its European headquarters in Hollyhill, Cork, also offers significant employment to people from the northside. The city development plan has a clear focus for the northside, Mr Fitzgerald said, in terms of the docklands, the Kilbarry area, and with the boundary extension, negotiated in 2018.
“It’s a matter of being proactive, putting in the infrastructure, and building on the successes that are there, and in investing in education and services,” added Mr Fitzgerald.