CEO Cork City Council: The future is bright for our city

As the curtain prepares to fall on 2022, Chief Executive of Cork City Council Ann Doherty reflects on the year gone by and looks ahead to 2023 and beyond
CEO Cork City Council: The future is bright for our city

Tanaiste Micheál Martin, together with the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Deirdre Forde, and Clúid Housing, welcomed residents to Cork City’s first Cost Rental Homes, at Lancaster Gate at Lancaster Quay. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

CORK City Council’s overarching goal is to create a city of sustainable urban growth where quality of life is enriched - not undermined - by population growth.

Cork has been earmarked as the fastest growing city in the country as, after Dublin, we are the only city that has the capacity to scale up to absorb the population growth that is projected for the country.

Across our operational and strategic projects, staff at Cork City Council work with our Elected Members and our partners in the public and private sector to help ensure that Cork has the variety and quality of housing, the appropriately zoned lands, infrastructure, jobs, amenities and arts and culture offerings that mean people need and want to live, do business, study and invest here.

This year, despite the uncertain global outlook, the country has recorded the biggest increases ever in foreign direct investment. 

It is heartening to see that over half of the 247 investment projects went to regional locations as we know balanced regional development is vital to ensuring there are jobs and opportunities across the state, and not just on the eastern seaboard.

According to recently published IDA statistics, investment in the South West was up 7.5% last year with 52,228 people employed in IDA-client companies. Just last month, NetApp opened its international headquarters in the Cork Docklands with an expected 500 jobs by 2025, while at City Gate in Mahon, Logitech and JCD Group opened a new sustainable office building at City Gate Plaza where up to 300 employees, of diverse nationalities, will work from. This compliments and supports a thriving small and medium enterprise (SME) indigenous business sector in the city – the backbone of this country.

Our Local Enterprise Office (LEO) is also playing a key role in supporting the micro enterprise sector in the city. This year over €510,000 in shared financial support was approved while over 70 Trading Online Vouchers were approved, over 100 businesses received mentoring and over 1,200 people attending online training events.

Being an attractive location for investment is certainly to be celebrated, but ready access to affordable homes to rent or buy remains the greatest challenge for people living in or who want to take up work in our city.

Progress is being made but not at the speed that the public would like to see. Furthermore, construction inflation is further undermining residential construction.

I was delighted to see Cork’s first cost rental scheme open recently at Lancaster Gate. Monthly rent for Clúid’s Lancaster Gate homes are circa 45% below local market rates, with one-bed apartments renting for €990 per month and two-bed apartments renting for €1,100 per calendar month.

Cluid worked with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Cork City Council, the Housing Agency, the Housing Finance Agency and O’Callaghan Properties to deliver this project which saw 1,200 people apply for 73 Cost Rental properties under a random selection process.

The public and private sector need to continue to work together to deliver similarly innovative solutions if we are to achieve the rates of housing delivery that our residents and prospective residents need.

Cork City Council has a proven track record in terms of finding innovative solutions to housing need and delivery. Under the Cork City Housing Delivery Action Plan, there is a pipeline to provide another 2,399 new social homes by 2026. This year, 691 homes will be delivered which will be achieved through a combination of new build (515 homes), acquisitions (54 homes) and leasing (122 homes). Right now, there are 49 projects under construction which will deliver over 957 homes when completed.

This strong pipeline of delivery has been achieved by activating City Council owned sites, the competitive dialogue procurement process, partnership with the approved housing body (AHB) sector, turnkey scheme acquisitions and Part V planning, with further housing development underway with the Land Development Agency.

In Cork city, there is concerted focus at present on delivering improved transport options as our traditional reliance on the car as our primary means of travel simply cannot continue in the face of a growing population and mounting carbon emissions. The MacCurtain Street Public Transport Improvement Scheme aims to support economic activity and enhance access to the city centre by providing significantly improved walking, cycling and public transport facilities on Mac Curtain Street, the city quays and adjoining streets. In Glanmire, a suite of infrastructure projects are underway to reduce congestion on the local road network, improve road connectivity in the area and to provide facilities so that walking and cycling become a viable and safe alternative for school goers and people commuting to work. Across the city, we can see transport solutions being delivered in tandem with improvements to surrounding public space. Take for instance, the works ongoing on the new cycling and walking facilities along Knapps Square and Lower Johns Street which will deliver better connectivity between Blackpool and the city centre, new cycle lanes, upgraded footpaths, cycle steps, improved public lighting, trees and planting.

Earlier this year, Cork City was selected by the European Commission as one of 100 ‘Mission Cities’ who will play a leading role, nationally and locally, in achieving the goals and objectives of the Government’s Climate Action Plan and the European Green Deal. 

This new status places us at the heart of the urban sustainability agenda in Europe. It will also mean a front loading of planned investment in the city so that we can accelerate our vision to meet the ambitious growth targets set for us while leading on sustainability and climate action.

Next year we will be developing a Climate Action Plan for the city. Recent years may have been characterised by unpredictability and uncertainty, but one thing is certain in the years ahead, we will all have to collaborate to achieve our climate action goals. However, whether you are a resident, in business or seeking to invest in Cork: being climate neutral will bring improvements to that most precious of commodities: quality of life. It will mean lower energy bills, less congestion, more sustainable transport options and living in communities where it’s easier to be healthy.

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