Saturday 7 December 2019

Council to borrow €270m from Euro bank for projects

'Infrastructure investment is our priority' - County Council

Concubhar Ó Liatháin

The Kanturk Relief Road and Mallow Theatre are among a number of vital infrastructure projects which will be funded with the support of a €270m loan Cork County Council has negotiated from the European Investment Bank, County Council CEO Tim Lucey has disclosed.

Council officials will sign on the dotted line today (Thursday, 28th) for the first instalment of €35m of the subvention from the European body.

Mr Lucey outlined some of the plans and priorities of Cork County Council as he addressed a room full of North and Mid Cork community, business and tourism leaders at the County Council’s North Cork Business and Tourism Awards in Charleville on Friday.

“On next Thursday morning, we will sign our first phase of a loan agreement with the European Investment Bank and, in January of next year, in about two months time, we’ll sign another phase of that with the Council of Europe which will actually generate up to €270m-worth of infrastructure investment into small local projects across Cork County over the next five to six years,” he told the audience of about 200 people at the gala event.

“They are projects such as the Mallow Theatre, such as the Kanturk Relief Road, such as developing digital hubs etc, stuff that we would never have got funding for from central government. We’ve taken this initiative ourselves, looking at our own balance sheet and where we could take a strategic move over the next 6-8 years so that we can generate opportunities on the ground and improve the quality of life and living conditions, town enhancement schemes.”

Describing it as the ‘first of its kind in the country’, Mr Lucey added it was the ‘first of a framework of loans’.

“When you think of €270m, that’s only quarter of a billion.

“That’s only part of what we’re going to do, that doesn’t even account for the hundreds of millions we’re going to spend between housing, roads, investment etc over the next five years.”

Mr Lucey also gave details about the Council’s success in winning national competitions for investment from the Urban Development Fund and the Rural Development Fund, both of which are part and parcel of the Government’s project for the revitalisation of the country’s infrastructure for 2040.

“Here in Cork we won seven out of the first eleven projects out of the urban development fund.

“We’ve also won a number of them on the rural development fund.”

One of the particular focuses of the Council’s efforts will be to support projects in rural areas of the county or, as the CEO termed it, the new county following the transfer of lands to the city from the county earlier this year.

“We’re specifically looking at the whole area of digital innovation and how we can grow digital hubs, how we can grow the opportunities for major businesses to be part of our towns and villages and our community life.

“The concept of remote working, because that’s the way the world is going, the only way we’re going to survive and grow the rural parts of this county is to ensure that we have the entirety of business in Cork looking at the opportuninties Cork County presents.

“It’ll be a major part of our strategy over the next four or five years and, I’m sure, by the end of that period, you’ll see movement on that.”

Mr Lucey had outlined at the outset of his address the startling statistic that there are more people working in small villages and the open countryside than there are in companies set up in the county as a result of foreign direct investment. He was drawing from a recent countywide consultation carried out to scope a new five-year corporate plan for the council.

“In Cork County and City there are over 200,000 people employed between city and county. What’s really stark about this, we hear a lot about urban growth and city growth is: Of those 200,000 people, 95,000 are working in what we call our new county having transferred over some of our ground to the city.

“And of that 95,000, about 52,000 of those work in our towns and their main hinterlands. The most striking thing is that the balance of that, the remaining 42,000 or so work in villages and the open country side across Cork County. Sometimes that tends to be forgotten about the richness of what actually makes a quality of life across Cork County.

“It’s important the richness of the economy and the quality of life of Cork County and the City is not just reflected in the 35,000 that are employed in foreign direct investment, they’re extremely important obviously, but it’s those small businesses who, day in and day out, earn a crust, work in their local communities and make connections across the county and abroad.”