Tuesday, 4 November 2008
I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue again. The Minister is familiar with the Cork docklands, which lie to the east of the city. The area has been recognised by both local authorities in the Cork region as having the potential for development. For more than six years, the authorities have promoted it and succeeded in gaining priority recognition for it in the national development plan, the spatial strategy and the Government's submission on the EU regional aid map from 2007 to 2013.
That 95% of the area is privately owned makes it different from the Dublin docklands. A commitment to physical infrastructure is necessary to trigger private investment. Cork has been designated as one of nine gateways under the national development plan. The gateway innovation fund could be used to provide funding for infrastructure in the docklands area. While gateway funding has been postponed until 2010, I request a Government commitment to funding infrastructure in the area, in particular the eastern gateway bridge proposed by Cork city and county councils. The proposal has been submitted to the Department of Finance. Of the major planning applications in the pipeline, some are being examined while others have been granted permission. A Government commitment would be a small step in the right direction.
The national development plan states:
The key challenge for Cork over the period to 2013 will be to significantly accelerate its rate of development and population growth, focusing particularly on the potential of its central area. The Docklands, in particular, has the capacity to accommodate an additional population of at least 15,000 people and significant commercial floor space but investment in physical infrastructure to trigger subsequent private investment is necessary.
This makes my case for me.
The docklands forum was established and has reported to the Government, but we are awaiting the report's publication. I recognise the difficulty regarding sites as outlined by the Minister for Finance in his Budget Statement. While I am sure that it applies in the case of all docklands, the issue is of particular concern in respect of the Cork docklands. I speak for many people in the area when asking that a commitment be given to provide funding for an eastern gateway bridge. This request comes from the city council, the Cork Chamber of Commerce, business interests and everyone interested in seeing the area developed, as it is Cork's future. The docklands' significant potential has been well documented and gateway funding would trigger private development.
I thank Deputy Clune for raising this issue on the Adjournment. It is widely acknowledged that the Cork docklands project advanced by Cork City Council is potentially of major significance to the city itself. From the outset, the Government has also viewed it as a project of national significance. The council is to be congratulated on articulating an ambitious vision for the regeneration of the docklands, establishing a detailed local planning framework and undertaking various infrastructural and economic studies to support the implementation of this vision.
With an area of more than 160 hectares contiguous to the city centre, the docklands offer the prospect of developing a modern, mixed use city quarter. Current plans anticipate that, over a 20-year period, the population of the docklands could increase from 500 to 22,000. This would entail the provision of more than 9,500 residential units, including almost 2,000 social and affordable units. It is estimated that the regeneration project has the potential to sustain approximately 27,000 new jobs in retail and financial services, industry, ICT, higher level educational institutions and leisure and cultural activities.
A development of this scale is the equivalent of placing a large town in a city centre location and would give Cork further critical mass in terms of its potential to act as a counterpoint to Dublin. For this reason, the regeneration of the docklands is recognised as a priority project under the national development plan and as an important element in meeting the overall objectives of the national spatial strategy regarding balanced regional development. In recognition of the potential significance of the Cork docklands project, the Government in December 2007 established the Cork Docklands Development Forum comprising representatives of relevant Departments, State agencies, local authorities and business and community interests. The forum was asked to prioritise the early consideration by, and response of, public bodies to the docklands area plan and to promote the effective co-ordination and delivery of public investment in the docklands.
The forum report submitted in early July 2008 sets out a policy and economic rationale for the regeneration project, identifies key economic and other drivers essential to the realisation of the vision for the area, identifies and costs critical public infrastructure required over the lifetime of the project, to 2027 at least, to underpin subsequent private investment, considered significant constraints and barriers to the intended redevelopment, considered how this redevelopment might be incentivised and made recommendations regarding institutional arrangements to bring the project forward.
The forum report envisages significant investment in public infrastructure, including the proposed eastern gateway bridge in opening up the south docklands for development as well as possible support for the relocation of port and other activities. While in the overall context of budgetary decisions, allocations under the gateway innovation fund have been deferred for 2009, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is conscious of the future strategic potential of the fund to drive and facilitate development and build on the local momentum in the gateways. Also, a new tax incentive scheme to facilitate the relocation of Seveso listed industrial facilities that hinder the regeneration of docklands in urban areas was announced in the budget, a significant response to the forum submission and submissions from others.
I wish also to inform the Deputy that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has discussed the matter with the Minister for Finance who is very much engaged with this project, understands the rationale behind it and is supportive of it. He is considering ways he can support the project into the future.
On a point of clarification, the Minister, Deputy Martin, referred to allocations under the gateway innovation fund for 2009. Is the allocation for 2009 or 2010? I understood the allocation was to be made available in 2010.