Sustainability is the main preoccupation of the draft County Development Plan published last week by Cork County Council and awaiting responses from the public during a period of consultation which is to last until midnight on July 1.
The plan sets out what the Council aims to achieve between 2022 and 2028 and contains seven volumes in total which can be accessed on and downloaded from the Cork County Council website.
While the focus in the plan is on creating 'vibrant, liveable, climate resilient communities', it's also consistent with the National Planning Framework and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy. The NPF published in 2018 sets out the Government's 'high level strategic vision' for shaping future growth.
This statement from the Draft County Development plan gives a useful indication of what the National Planning Framework is about:
"The NPF is unapologetic in seeking to disrupt trends and sets out how Ireland can move away from the current 'business as usual' pattern of development.
"The NPF explored the 'do nothing' scenario which suggested that without a new approach there would likely be continued sprawl; stagnation of inner city and older suburban areas; a degraded environment with loss of habitat due to greenfield development; greater distances between where people live and work; social inequality and disadvantage and haphazard approaches to planning for infrastructure and climate change."
The document states that the NPF has the long term vision of providing good quality housing that meets the needs of a diverse population in a way that makes our cities, towns and villages good places to live now and into the future.
A central element of the plan is the nomination of two key towns in Cork - Mallow and Clonakilty - which will play a critical role in the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy for the entire southern region.
The plans envisage that these towns will be a focus for significant growth - more than 30% - in the years ahead. In this context, Mallow is described as town with a significant sub regional role, transport hub, a major employment centre for North Cork and as part of a strong network of Ring Towns.
While the emphasis is on growth, the sustainability question comes into it also with issues around planning permission for single houses or the difficulty in getting sites for building in villages.
Another issue is the preponderance of derelict sites in towns and villages around the county.
* Cork’s population is expected to grow by 61,000 to reach 393,000 by 2028
* A new town, Monard, is to be developed on the north side of Cork city
* A suburban rail network is to be developed
*Mallow and Clonakilty named key towns
* The development of waste water plants is crucial to overall aims
There was a 6% increase in population in Kanturk Mallow LEA, which includes Charleville as well as Duhallow between 2011-2016. Approximately 37% lived in urban areas while 63% lived in rural communities.
A priority for the LEA in the term of the new plan must be the improvement of the water supply, both drinking water and waste water. According to the assessment published in the draft document, Buttevant is the only town with full capacity while Mallow only has some drinking water capacity and its future waste water capacity is dependent on the implementation of Irish Water plans. Key villages such as Ballydesmond, Banteer, Boherbue, Churchtown, Dromina, Grenagh and others are facing challenges to get either their drinking water or waste water up to full capacity.
A complicating factor is the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel which has to be protected even as development is planned.
Given that the plan is for significant growth in Mallow, the lack of capacity in terms of waste water and drinking water is going to be a significant challenge to overcome.
Mallow has been allocated a population target of 16,046 in the County Development Plan 2028 representing growth of just over 3,587 people on Census 2016 figures. In order to accommodate this level of population growth, an additional 1,428 housing units will be required for the period 2020-2028.
While Charleville is preparing for a period of expansion, with the development of the M20 now being finalised, Kanturk's main challenges are the improvement of its public realm and the redevelopment of buildings on the town's main streets.
The population growth in Macroom/Millstreet LEA showed a 3% increase in the 2011-16 period, up 1,058 people to a population of 36,844. The urban/rural divide in the LEA, 18/82, is significantly different to other areas.
There's a significant additional factor in this LEA as it contains the Múscraí Gaeltacht and the Draft Development Plan proposes that a document developed with Acadamh Fódhla in Múscrai would form the basis of a plan to protect the area's unique linguistic and cultural character and manage future change.
The current population of Macroom is 4,980 and it is targeted to raise this to 5,995 in the period of the plan. The future development of the town is likely to be impacted by the development of the N22 bypass, expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
While there are a number of housing developments in progress on the outskirts of the town, the plan envisages the construction of new pedestrian pathways and cycle paths to ease access from these areas to the town centre. Also under consideration is the Masseytown Relief Road, to allow access to the town centre. The plan aims for 399 new housing units in the town.
The inclusion of Millstreet in this LEA means that it now contains the Blackwater's main channel and some of its tributaries. Because of this development of water management facilities will be vital to ensure further development in Millstreet and its wider hinterland.
Millstreet experienced a slight dip in population between 2011 and 2016 but an increase of 21% is expected in the next seven years. This means an additional 86 housing units will be required to meet the target in Millstreet.
The population in the Fermoy LEA, which includes Mitchelstown, went up by 4% in the 2011-16 period, an increase of 1,517 people. The same urban rural split prevails as in Kanturk/Mallow, 37% urban and 63% rural,
The water quality issue comes to the fore here as well as, in Mitchelstown and many of the local villages, there are longstanding issues regarding the capacity for drinking water and for waste water.
The plan for Fermoy is growth of 2,300 people, up to 8,894, and this will mean 804 new housing units in the town.
Most of Fermoy Town Centre is considered to be part of an Architectural Conservation Area so this will lead to whatever development that does happen being refurbishment which is carried out sensitively
In Mitchelstown, expansion is more difficult due to the water situation and a planned housing development is awaiting a planning green light while Irish Water considers its plans for a waste water treatment plant in the town.