A top Irish planner has warned that the failure to create a single, unified Cork council risks repeating the strategic mistakes of a 1966 boundary extension.
Planning consultant Brian McCutcheon pointed out that over the past 50 years, Cork city's population has shrunk alarmingly while satellite towns in the county were deliberately sited away from any possible city expansion. Cork city's population, instead of growing from 135,000 in the 1970s to a target of 150,000, declined to just 119,000 in 2014.
Mr McCutcheon, who worked as a council planner for 24 years, stressed that only by creating critical development mass for Cork, while also eliminating damaging competition between the two authorities, can the region achieve its full potential.
"The past 30 years has demonstrated that the population target of 150,000 within the city boundary cannot be delivered," he said.
"The next 30 years will show that the targets for the satellite towns are also unachievable."
Mr McCutcheon pointed out that the issue now isn't just about Cork acting as a regional counterweight to Dublin, but both the city and county councils moving away from a planning strategy that may have been relevant in the 1970s was now totally outdated.
Cork City Council insisted it was proceeding with a High Court judicial challenge to the Local Government Review study, chaired by former Beamish and Crawford boss, Alf Smiddy.
The Smiddy study recommended the councils merge to create a €440m authority. Councillor Daithi O'Donnabhain said it was clear a plebiscite was now required to allow Cork residents "listen to the facts and voice their opinion".