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Housing accounts for almost half of Council budget over next three years

August 24th, 2018 7:20 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Roadworks last year on Schull's Main St: the Council hopes to spend €214m on roadworks over the next three years. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THE ability of Cork County Council to deliver its €723m Capital Programme for the next three years will be dependent on funding, according to head of finance, Lorraine Lynch. 

At a recent meeting of the local authority, councillors were given an outline of the plans for housing, roads and other projects, from 2018 to 2020.

Housing remains the Council’s main priority with €326m pencilled in for homes, including €269m to be allocated for social housing.

‘The housing programme is nearly half the capital programme and the majority of it will be funded by grants, said Lorraine Lynch, head of finance.

A total of €214m has been earmarked for roads, with major projects like the N22 Macroom by-pass, Carrigaline Relief Road and the N28 Ringaskiddy all included in the programme, while the Council also plans to invest in its transport fleet to the tune of €5.87m, the first investment in the Council’s fleet since 2014.

A total of €47.9m has been indicated for flood relief works with four projects – Skibbereen, Douglas, Midleton and Glanmire – making up the bulk of that figure, while €5m has been set aside for coastal protection.

A total of €28m has been pencilled in for recreation and amenities, and projects include the refurbishment of the Briery Gap Theatre, development of beach boardwalks and greenways, as well as public realms works and town centre improvements.

The programme also makes provision to build new fire stations in Macroom, Clonakilty, Kanturk and Mitchelstown, as well as investing in replacing vehicles. Nearly €14m is being put aside for the Cork Science and Innovation Park (CSIP) in Curraheen, which will eventually come under Cork City Council, once the boundary changes are implemented.

‘The Council has engaged with the City Council to determine their position on this key piece of development that will be within the revised City boundary area,’ said Ms Lynch.

Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) said that it’s an aspirational programme over three years and that the Council should ‘make no apologies for being ambitious’ but he added that it was disappointing not to see affordable housing on the programme. He said that the Council should look to borrow for key infrastructural projects if the Government was not providing grant aid.

Cllr Des O’Grady (SF) said the figures were very impressive and that ‘a lot of the plans are aspirational, but it was good to have plans in place.’ He said he was impressed with the figure for social housing and hoped that it can be progressed.

Cllr Gillian Coughlan (FF) said that marine and recreational leisure will be huge in the future and that the Council needs to invest in it, and she also called for more investment in culture and heritage.

Ms Lynch added that this is a three-year rolling programme and ‘we will come back to it in early 2019 – it’s an indication and doesn’t necessarily include everything.’ But Council chief executive Tim Lucey clarified that there was no such thing as ‘a wish list’ and that these are projects the Council is doing.

‘The programme naturally changes month by month,’ said Mr Lucey.

 

Fire tankers 

THE lack of any fire tankers in West Cork was highlighted at the meeting by Independent councillor Danny Collins.

‘We have no fire tankers in West Cork at the moment and I think we have one borrowed with the last couple of weeks from Midleton or Mallow. This is a serious issue for West Cork and recently when there was a fire at a factory in Baltimore we had to get a fire tanker from to come all the way from Midleton and I believe it broke down on the way. Cork County Council will have to look at this and have at least two fire tankers for the area of West Cork and it can’t go on like this for much longer,’ said Danny Collins.

The tankers supply additional water to the Council’s fire tenders.

 

Bantry sport

BANTRY-based councillor Mary Hegarty (FG) said she welcomed all the money for housing in Bantry, which she said is much-needed. 

However, she said her one agenda for Bantry is tourism and said that events like the recent West Cork Literary Festival drew huge crowds to the town, with recently released figures showing that over 1,100 people attended the free readings in the town’s library during the festival.

‘My wishlist for Bantry would be that we would get permanent homes for the West Cork Music Festival  and the West Cork Literary Festival in the next traunch of funding in the Rural Development Programme,’ said Cllr Hegarty.

Cllr Hegarty also called for more investment into sporting facilities in the town.

‘Bantry is a town that has suffered in the past for investment into sport and I would ask that we move ahead. We have great facilities in the GAA but I think Bantry is lacking in facilities for other sports like rugby, soccer and basketball.’

Cllr Hegarty said these would be two programmes that she is seeking for Bantry over the next three years.

‘Skibbereen has had a lot of investment but I would like  to see maybe some investment for Bantry in the next number of years and both of these would help significantly for tourism,’ added Cllr Hegarty.

 

Skibbereen Town Hall

SKIBBEREEN-based Councillor Joe Carroll (FF) said  one of the greatest mistakes the former town council  in Skibbereen did was not spend the money when they had it.

‘There was a bit of money put aside for Skibbereen Town Hall and that was four years ago, and we’re not at all happy with the progress of it,’ said Cllr Carroll.

‘It’s right in the middle of the town and it should be one of our main focal points in the town. I’d like to see more progress on this.’

 

Coastline

CORK County Council has been urged to start investing more in coastal protection. 

Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said this sector is underfunded and while he welcomed the Schull pontoon being put in place, he said that the Council is slowly starting to become more aware of the potential of the coastline, which sets it apart from other counties.

‘We need to put our money where our words are. It is the way forward. There is so much tourist potential with sailing, whale watching, recreational fishing and the list is endless but we really need to start investing in that,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

His colleague Cllr Joe Carroll said he has been constantly saying down through the years that Cork County Council is not utilising the coastline more.

‘We need to put a lot more emphasis on our coastline – and there will be returns on it,’ said Cllr Carroll.

Head of finance, Lorraine Lynch, said that coastal protection is something that the Council has identified and that it’s a high priority for the Council.

 

‘We will never have enough money for footpaths’ – admits Council finance chief

By Kieran O’Mahony

AS Cork County Council outlined an ambitious €723m capital programme for the next two years that will see proposed plans for roads and housing and other projects, some councillors felt that the proposed funding of €3m for footpath improvements was too low.

At a meeting of the local authority, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said he felt that footpaths were very much an under-invested sector.

‘We don’t fare as well as other countries in terms of our  provisions of footpaths. In Clonakilty, for example, we have two fantastic destinations just outside the town, Inchydoney  – an award winning beach –  and Ring village, and pedestrian access to both of these incredible spots would really enhance, not just Clonakilty but the whole area. I just think we should be putting far more funding into it,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.

Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF) agreed with his colleague and said that when he became a councillor he was shocked at how little funding was available for footpaths.

‘Does the €3m include the maintenance of the footpaths as well?’ asked Cllr Murphy, who was then told that it doesn’t.

Cllr Aidan Lombard (FG) highlighted the lack of footpaths at schools in Minane Bridge and Ballygarvan, and he said for the people of these areas the projects, which aren’t ‘big ticket’ items – but might cost in the region of €100,000 – are like multi-million euro projects  to them and they are just as important.

Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) said he isn’t in the habit of repeating himself but felt he had to highlight again the fact that a footpath is urgently needed between Glengarriff village and the Nature Reserve.

‘Something has to be done here – even if we just start it little by little, and build it over a number of years. Get it started as most of the people leave the village walking to the Reserve. The people who own the land are willing to sign letters saying they will donate the land for footpaths,’ said Cllr Collins.

Cllr Kevin Murphy (FG) said he wanted to find out more details about the footpaths and highlighted the footpath that was put down in Kilbrittain, which he said was a ‘disgrace’.

Cllr Ian Doyle (FF) also called for an increase in the funding for footpaths across villages and towns.

‘I feel that our footpath programme is way behind in terms of delivery for these towns and villages, and we need to up the funding considerably,’ said Cllr Doyle.

Cllr Frank O’Flynn (FF) pointed out that most of the insurance claims against the Council relate to footpaths.

Head of finance, Lorraine Lynch, who had outlined the programme to councillors, said the difficulty was that the local authority will never have enough money to invest in footpaths and that it’s not something that is funded generally by grants.

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