COUNTY Cork IFA is opposed to the boundary extension of Cork city as it will deprive many parts of the county of the investment needed to support economic activity and rural regeneration.
In a joint statement at a press conference in Cork, the three county chairmen – Cork Central chairman Harold Kingston, North Cork chairman Billy Cotter and West Cork chairman Cornie Buckley – said: ‘This extension will be to the detriment of rural areas, including villages and towns which need ongoing investment. The income generated through rates and local property tax would increase for the city area, at the expense of the County Council area, to the tune of over €50m. This is unacceptable and is at odds with the Government’s aim of rural-proofing their policies.’
At the press conference, the three IFA chairmen pointed out that Cork is a vast county measuring 7,500 sq km. Some of it is peripheral, sparsely populated and economically disadvantaged.
Services need to be provided in all areas of the county: ‘These include roads, housing, amenity and social investment. The provision of these services is more costly for the county area and it is vital that investment is spread out to meet the requirements of all areas.’ They also pointed out that, if the metropolitan area is extended, rural areas that currently benefit from the EU Leader programme will be excluded. Farming represents a significant part of the economy of County Cork with over 14,000 farmers, supporting an additional 6,500 jobs in processing. Agriculture output is worth €1.2bn and exports of €1.6bn.
The IFA believeS that other options must be considered to include:
• utilising all of the vacant land in the city area
• merging of the city and county councils into one local authority
• limiting the extensions so as not to encroach on farmland in the area surrounding the city.
‘It is clear that there has not been proper consultation on this proposal. While the Smiddy report had certain recommendations, the subsequent report requested by the City Council, the McKinnon report, was one-sided and did not involve wider consultation with all of the stakeholders in the county as a whole.’
In concluding, the three IFA county chairmen called for a reasonable and sensible discussion, using both the Smiddy and MacKinnon reports.