600 house scheme for Cork is one of the largest of its nature in the region 

A plan for 600 new homes in Old Whitechurch Road forms a central plank in a policy to provide more accommodation, says Brian Geaney, Cork City Council Assistant Chief Executive
600 house scheme for Cork is one of the largest of its nature in the region 

There is excitement about the 600 house scheme planned in Old Whitechurch Road, as it will include a large number of affordable homes — as well as traditional social housing. Picture: Stock

CORK City Council is delighted to be taking the all-important next step in developing a residential scheme on our lands at Old Whitechurch Road, where we expect to deliver at least 600 new homes and facilities such as a school, neighbourhood shop and services.

Housing supply is identified as one of the biggest political and societal challenges of our time, with affordability presented as one part of a much more complex set of processes that determine the speed and mode of delivery.

Cork City Council is seeking candidates interested in competing in a public procurement competition on eTenders to deliver a substantial social and affordable housing scheme incorporating retail, educational, and amenity facilities at Kilnap, between the Old Whitechurch Road and Old Mallow Road, Cork city.

The scheme — one of the largest of its nature in the region — will be developed on a landbank measuring about 22hectares / 54 acres in an area which is zoned as residential in the 2015-2021 Cork City Development Plan.

There is justifiable excitement about this scheme as we are, firstly, planning to facilitate the delivery of large numbers of affordable homes — as well as traditional social housing.

Secondly, we are able to facilitate a variety of home types from apartments to houses and a variety of tenure types from private affordable homes to cost rental — potentially offering a suite of housing solutions. The council has invested considerable resources in putting this vital land-bank together over the years.

Brian Geaney, Cork City Council Assistant Chief Executive.
Brian Geaney, Cork City Council Assistant Chief Executive.

A successful outcome will involve collaboration as always with our key stakeholders, particularly the construction sector, the Department of Housing and Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs). This particular site in the northern corner of the city, close to Blackpool Shopping Centre and Mallow Road, is well positioned. The council assembled it almost 15 years ago, and with Government help over the past two years, via the LIHAF scheme, the council, with the assistance of RPS Consulting Engineers and Ward & Burke Construction, has been able to transform this south-sloping site by undergrounding the power grid infrastructure and pylons and installing a spine road and trunk services. This enables the final step, which is the building of new homes for a new community.

In Cork city, we need to recognise we are in a strong position. There is great momentum behind us. Cork city has expanded, the population is growing and, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, there are business sectors in Cork buzzing with employment opportunities and investments appearing every week.

Cork city is in a better position to recover economically from the pandemic than most other areas. 

Across Ireland, manufacturing, food and ICT and internationally traded services are proving more resilient, and the high concentration of these sectors in Cork has helped the region through the pandemic.

We must acknowledge the facts: as evidenced by the ever-changing city skyline, there is up to €1billion of planned private investment in this city and for the first time ever here, private sector investment is being matched by public sector investment. Another €1billion investment is ringfenced for Bus Connects, the City Centre Movement Strategy, Flooding and Public Realm Infrastructure, the arts via the Crawford Art Gallery, Marina Park, the Events Centre and LIHAF.

Cork city has the strategy in place to deliver and Government is responding in turn.

As the country’s second city, a regional capital, and a unique waterside European city, we must do everything we can as a council to ensue housing for our young population and growing communities. And we will.

Cork City Council has a long record in this regard dating back 100 years and, in the past four years, has been to the forefront nationally in delivering social housing. 

We plan to lead the way again with affordable housing and other modern forms of tenure and accommodation. This large scheme on Old Whitchurch Road / Old Mallow Road is just one card in our pack.

Separately this week, Cork City Council is making a second call on eTenders for participants to apply to compete in another EU Competitive Dialogue procurement competition to provide homes of all types on both public and private lands across the city. This is our third such competition and in the past four years, previous competitions have resulted in several award-winning schemes of houses or apartments throughout the city.

These include Arus Mhuire on Skehard Road, Blackrock, a 30-unit sheltered ‘right-sizing’ housing development. A mix of one and two-bedroom homes, the development is largely aimed at over 60s considering down-sizing from larger homes. The scheme was delivered by Lyonshall / Clancy Group and procured by an EU Competitive Dialogue process. By ‘right-sizing’ to Arus Mhuire, this frees up larger council and privately-owned homes to families on the housing waiting list.

In recent years, award-winning innovative interventions by Cork City Council have created new communities of social houses and apartments at Togher, Knocknaheeny, Blackpool, Leeside Apartments, and others.

Its novel use of the EU Competitive Dialogue Procurement Competition has been a success from a social housing standpoint but also from a regeneration perspective as sustainable community life has visibly returned to a number of streets in the city centre.

This was very evident when residents got keys to their new homes built on the site of the former White Street Car Park, near Douglas Street. Up to 43 units were built at a site earmarked residential in the Local Area Plan. It includes 21 one-bedroom apartments, 16 two-bedroom apartments and six three-bedroom houses and meets Cork City Council’s aims of increasing the city centre residential offering and the variety of home types.

This is uplifting for all the team involved, and why we enter a career in public service: to make a difference and facilitate progress for the people. Results like this cannot be achieved alone, we would be nowhere without the support of our staff, our communities, our elected representatives and of course the vital ingredient: a pipeline of government funding.

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