A City For Living

Sinn Féin Submission to the New City Development Plan

Sinn Féin wants to see Cork becoming a city that is not merely prosperous and growing, but gives its people the best possible quality of life. Despite the economic growth of the last decade, traffic gridlock, over-priced housing, the absence of public amenities, the weakening of community life, litter and pollution detract from the quality of life for many. The new City Development Plan needs to counteract this by making sure Cork has a world-class public transport system; ensuring a full range of amenities and services is available to all communities in the city; increasing the provision of social and affordable housing; making sure rented accommodation meets the highest standards; and cherishing and celebrating the voluntary contributions of people to their communities.

 A particular issue that impacts on many aspects of the plan is the fact that Cork City has outgrown its boundaries. This means there is a shortage of land for housing, and housing costs are higher within the city as a result. It also means communities in Togher, Wilton, Grange, and other areas which are an organic part of Cork City, come under the jurisdiction of the County Council. The division of the urban area between City and County Councils also means the creation of a joined-up transport plan for the City and its commuter belt is more difficult.

 Sinn Féin feels this anomaly needs to be urgently addressed, through a significant expansion of the City boundaries in the near future.



 The level of traffic in the city and the ability of people to get to work without undue discomfort or delay are key determinants of quality of life. At present, the public transport system in Cork is completely inadequate. There are too few green bus routes, and no commuter rail service except the line to Cobh. Most people going to work have no option but the use a car and spend long periods of time on congested roads. Putting in place a proper system of public transport, and reducing congestion, must be central aims of the new City Development Plan.

An Integrated Transport Plan for Cork

Every day, tens of thousands of people journey between the urban centre of Cork and suburbs or dormer towns like Rochestown, Douglas, Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Blarney and Glanmire. These communities may be in the jurisdiction of the County Council; but for purposes of transport policy the city and its surrounding commuter belt need to be treated as a single unit. We need to create transport corridors (green bus routes, light rail, etc.) along the routes people use to travel to work or utilise the facilities of the city centre; and these do not stop magically at the city bounds. An integrated transport strategy is required involving both city and county council to manage the daily movement of people between the commuter belt and the city centre.

Green Bus Routes

More green bus routes need to developed. Priority should be given to their development along the arteries serving the main commuter centres such as Douglas/Rochestown, Carrigaline, Ballincollig, Blarney, and Glanmire.  Bus-shelters and up-to-date timetables also need to be provided along these routes.

Light Rail System for the South City

Cork has seen massive expansion to the south and west, but these communities are dependent for transport on an inadequate bus system and the private car. The proposed Docklands Light Rail System should be expanded with a western line serving Wilton, Bishopstown and Ballincollig and a southern section serving Blackrock, Douglas and Carrigaline. A rail link existed to Crosshaven in the 1950s, when the population of these areas was a fraction of what it is now: why cannot we manage to develop a light rail system for the area today?  

Water Bus

Several cities which, like Cork, are built around a river or harbour, use a “water bus” as a form of public transport. Internationally, cities operating water buses and/or taxis include: Auckland, Baltimore, Bangkok, Boston, Cardiff, Chicago, Dubai, Fort Lauderdale, Kobe, New York, Osaka, Pittsburgh, Rotterdam, and Sydney. A waterbus service could provide a cheap and easy method of transport between areas like Blackrock, Mahon, Rochestown, Passage and Monkstown and a city centre terminal in the new docklands. Infrastructural costs would be low, since the river provides a natural avenue of transport, and the “water bus” would avoid the congestion of land transport routes. 

Cycle Routes

More cycle routes should be provided, particularly servicing schools to make it safe and easier for children to cycle to class. Secure bike parking should also be provided at the terminus of these routes. City Council hold lobby government to reduce or abolish VAT on safety gear for cyclists such as crash helmets.

Park and Ride

Development of Park and Ride facilities to service the western and northern suburbs needs to be fast-tracked. Both new and existing facilities should have extended opening hours to allow their use up to 11pm at night.

Parking and Congestion Charges

City Council should determine at some point to review the structure of parking charges, and study the feasibility of introducing a congestion charge on vehicles entering the city centre at peak hours, with a view to reducing the volume and impact of traffic on the city centre and surrounding residential areas. However, such a review should only take place once there is an adequate public transport infrastructure in place to provide people with a comfortable and convenient alternative to the private car.


Strengthening Communities

 Strong communities with a sense of identity and a spirit of neighbourliness enhance people’s quality of life and reduce the level of anti-social behaviour. Such communities require a physical infrastructure of services and amenities. But they also require support and recognition for the people who, through mostly voluntary activity, knit them together and make them worth living in. There are a range of measures, many of them costing very little, that could help strengthen communities and build a stronger civic culture in Cork.

“Urban Villages”

Facilities such as shops, chemists, eating places and public houses provide a focus for community life and a natural centre for people to meet and gather. This function is not so well provided by shopping centres which are islands in large car-parks and shut down completely at night. The council should identify existing on-street retail centres that act as a focus for communities across the city and work to develop them through combination of planning incentives and the upgrading and refurbishment of their surroundings.

Community Centres

City Council should earmark an annual budget for upgrading or developing community centres across the City.

Youth Facilities

The poor provision of youth facilities is a regular issue among communities across the city. It is frequently cited as a contributor to anti-social behaviour. Sinn Féin proposes that as part of the City Development Plan, a dedicated unit should be established by the City Council to examine this issue. Its work should focus on three main areas:

·        Direct provision of facilities by the local authority: There are a number of steps the local authority can take to provide more youth facilities directly. Council properties, existing community centres, or derelict buildings acquired by the council could be utilised to provide a network of youth cafes or drop-in centres. Existing public parks and amenities could have skate-parks and other facilities added to them and be kept open later.

·      Community Directory: In many areas there are a wide range of on-going events and many clubs and societies in which young people would be welcomed. However, people are not always adequately informed about what is available in their area. The unit should publish, at regular intervals (say three months), community guides to what’s on in a particular area.

·        Youth facilities provided by the private sector: There are other facilities, such as cinemas and bowling alleys, which are more appropriately provided by the private sector. It should be part of the unit’s task to liaise with and facilitate private operators in providing such facilities.

Parks and Public Walks

There is a large amount of green space within the city boundaries. However, a great deal of it is underutilised or inaccessible to the public. As part of the city development plan, a programme should be developed to:


·        Upgrade and improve the appearance of existing public green spaces

·        Ensure there are more green spaces with public access (whether through purchasing unused green spaces or securing agreements from others, for example golf-clubs, to allow public access)

·        Linking green spaces together in a system of public walks

Public Liability Insurance

The activities of many clubs and voluntary groups are limited by the costs of public liability insurance. The City Council should create a fund to which such groups could apply for assistance with these costs where their activities were being hampered. Businesses could be asked to show their public spirit by making donations to this fund.

Celebrating Volunteerism

In every community in Cork there are people who give freely of their time and effort by helping sports clubs, charities, and other organisations. Their efforts are unpaid, but improve the life of all. Sinn Féin proposes that we as a city should recognise and celebrate their efforts by having an annual “Cork Volunteerism Awards”, with awards given to volunteers nominated by their local communities. A promotional DVD about all that is good in Cork could also be produced.

Community Associations

Community Associations provide a vital service in representing, organising and empowering local people. City Council should actively encourage and support the formation and strengthening of community associations across the city.

·        A designated officer of the City Council should be charged with channelling information to community associations.

·        Training in leadership, planning and facilitation should be provided free to members of community associations and groups who wish to avail of it

·        A “Community Parliament” of representatives of community and voluntary associations should be convened twice a year as a consultative body with the City Council. 



Mobile Phone Masts

There is considerable evidence that mobile phone masts have a negative impact on public health. Sinn Féin is calling for a ban on mobile phone masts within 100 metres of residential dwellings.

Greenhouse Emissions

Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity. We here in Cork have to accept our share of the responsibility for reducing carbon emissions and halting global warming. Sinn Féin is calling for:

·        A programme of investment to ensure all council-owned dwellings are properly insulated and energy efficient within 5 years

·        Steps to be included in the City Development Plan to reduce energy use and improve efficiency at council offices and buildings

Water Supply

Sinn Fein is resolutely opposed to the introduction of water charges for private users. We are also calling on the City Council to introduce a rebate on water charges for community centre, sport clubs and other non-profit users.


The refuse collection service needs to be retained in public hands, and the existing system of waivers from service charges for those on low incomes protected and strengthened.

Flood Defences

A global warming accelerates and sea levels will rise, it is likely that Cork’s City Centre, which is already liable to flooding, will become even more vulnerable. The City Development Plan needs to incorporate a comprehensive strategy to provide enhanced flood defences for the city.


Enterprise and Employment

The trend in job creation across the City is worrying. More and more manufacturing jobs are been lost as the sector becomes less financially viable for companies to operate in. The outsourcing of these jobs to far eastern countries has left many unskilled workers facing a bleak future. Many of the workers who have been displaced lack the necessary training opportunities to compete in an ever modernising society.

 The development of Cork needs to reflect these employment trends and actively tackle the issue. High-technology centres of excellence should be created on both the Northside and Southside of the City. The redevelopment of existing industrial centres in Churchfield and Model Farm Road should be prioritised. The transportation infrastructure needs to be developed parallel to these centres of excellence. In this context, there is a particularly urgent need to complete the North Ring Road.



 The population of Cork City will grow substantially over the coming years. But housing is in short supply and building land is scarce. Rents are among the highest in the country. Young people are being priced out of the housing market. There are more than 6,000 people on the housing list, and much of the council housing stock badly needs maintenance.

 The provision of housing is a basic responsibility of any local authority. The right to shelter is a right which all citizens of Cork should be able to avail of. We need to act now to ensure Cork City can meet the housing needs of its people in the future.

Increase Provision of Social and Affordable Housing

At present there are 6,000 people on the housing list in Cork City and approximately another 1,000 joining it every year. Sinn Féin proposes to halve the number of people on the housing list within 3 years by providing 6,000 social and affordable housing units (or 3,000 additional units to those planned at present)

 At least half these should be 1 or 2-bedroom units. A look at the current Housing list will show that almost half of those seeking accommodation are single people. Housing provision needs to reflect the decreasing household size within the city and serve the needs of the many people on the housing list which the council’s existing stock of 3- and 4- bedroom houses does not match.

Introduce a Transparent Points System for Housing

At present, people on the housing list don’t know whether they are at the top, the middle or the bottom. They don’t know how long they must wait or how decisions are reached. And there is nowhere they can go to have these questions answered.

 What is clear is that there are huge differences in the amount of time people spend on the housing list – from 6 weeks to 10 years. Also clear is the potential for corruption and cronyism in a system where decisions are reached behind closed doors. 

 It is time to introduce a transparent points system for social housing. Applicants would be awarded points on the basis of criteria such as financial status, number of dependents, current accommodation, and medical condition. They would be informed of the number of points awarded them and the reason for this award. They would be able to view their exact placing on the housing list and estimate the length of time they will be waiting for a house.

Renovate Council Housing Stock

At present 33% of council housing stock is in need of maintenance. A further 1,500 maintenance requests are being received by the council every year. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. Much of the council’s housing stock is aging and of poor quality. The council needs to invest in an extensive programme to renovate the housing stock and bring it up to acceptable standards.

Enforce Standards for Private Rented Accommodation

The system for enforcing standards in private rented accommodation is grossly inadequate. In theory, landlords are obliged to register with City Council, and the Council’s building inspectors can inspect their properties. In reality, the majority of landlords in the city are unregistered, and the number of building inspectors is grossly inadequate.

 The number of building inspectors should be doubled. We also want a pro-active campaign to ensure all landlords in the city are registered. This should include raising awareness among tenants of the benefits to them of their landlord being registered.

Integrate Apartments into the Urban Community

The recent trend towards the building of apartments in the city is likely to continue and intensify. This is positive in that it is bringing new life and population into the urban heartland of Cork. However, it is important that these apartments do not develop as gated complexes cut off from the life of the city around them. The City Council has a vital role to play, through planning and the renovation of urban streetscapes and open places, in ensuring that there are both community facilities (local shops, chemists, etc.) and safe, attractive environments that will encourage the formation of new communities in the city centre.

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