Monday 20 April 2009

Developers set sites on rezoning

The recession is here and NAMA is coming, but well-known developers are queuing up to have their land rezoned in Cork, writes Neil Callanan.

Rugby and retail were two of the stand-out sections amidst the plethora of rezoning submissions made to Cork City Council ahead of the introduction of its new development plan which will be passed this year. Public consultation on the proposed amendments closed recently and a number of well-known developers were among those seeking rezoning of their land.

Owen O'Callaghan and John Deane's O'Callaghan Properties sought the rezoning of Mahon Point Centre as a town centre/district centre, which would be subject to a local area plan (LAP), a position supported by Tesco. These LAPs need to be prepared quickly, it said, ideally within 12 months and the council should accept proposals for stakeholders in an LAP area, they stated. The city manager said the LAP would be drawn up this year and the issues would be best dealt with then.

They also made a submission on the opportunities for the redevelopment of Temple Hill where Cork Constitution are currently based. The two sides have agreed a land swap that will see O'Callaghan Properties provide new facilities for the club near Douglas in return for taking on the Temple Hill ground. The development company says there is an opportunity for a "neighbourhood hub" there.

However, city manager Joe Gavin said that the "loss of these pitches and their relocation would be wholly undesirable". He said: "Their retention is vital not just for the existing population but also for future residents. If the facility is lost it cannot be easily replaced in a built-up area." He recommended no change to the zoning as sports grounds.

Cork Constitution was not the only rugby organisation involved in rezoning attempts. The Munster branch of the IRFU wanted 2.75 acres of the ground at Musgrave Park rezoned to "residential, local services and institutional uses' or to have the entire site rezoned and the stadium relocated. The 2.75 acre rezoning made sense, the manager said.

Alchemy, part of Reox Holdings, sought the rezoning of its land opposite Musgrave Park but the manager said this should not be allowed.

CIE, meanwhile, said it is planning a "new multi model transport interchange" at Horgan's Quay next to Kent Station and said the proposed zoning would not facilitiate that. It also believes that the site should be zoned within the city centre retail area.

Its joint venture development partner, Joe Moran's Manor Park Homebuilders, also said it wants the plan to "allow a significant portion of retail development at the station to act as an anchor destination and maximise the potential of this edge of centre transport hub".

At the train station itself, Iarnród Eireann wants to develop a multi-storey car park and the goods shed removed from the record of protected structures. The manager recommended that car parks be allowed in "exceptional circumstances" on street frontages.

The manager also warned about office oversupply. "The capacity of the areas currently zoned for offices very significantly exceeds the likely new office space in the city for the next 20 years. It is not considered appropriate therefore to undermine the locations which are the most desirable from a proper planning and sustainable development perspective by extensive additional zoning for offices on an ad hoc basis," he wrote.

A number of local developers made submissions. Clayton Love Jr's Shipton Group asked the council to facilitate further expansion of its district centre in Blackpool. The manager recommended it be extended to include existing buildings but did not back the rezoning of land around the local rail station, which the Shipton Group had requested.

O'Brien & O'Flynn also sought the extension of the existing area zoned for residential development on a site at Silver Spring Lane in Tivoli. The site was designated "an area of high landscape value" and the manager said only minor changes should be allowed.

McCarthy Developments want permission to develop a tall building at its Jacob's Island land in Mahon and to have the site upgraded to a neighbourhood centre which would increase the land available for retail. It also sought to rezone lands at the entrance of the scheme from public open space to residential and other uses but the manager disagreed with this.

Car importers MDL, meanwhile, want its site at Turners Cross rezoned for mixed use development to allow "greater flexibility" in the development of the land while Dulux asked for its site in Blackpool to be rezoned with the possibility of high-density residential, commercial, leisure and employment uses. The manager said Dulux's site would be dealt with as part of an LAP but said the MDL zoning should not be changed.

UCC and the Mercy Hospital made a joint submission outlining their disappointment at the "presumption against development" on the Old Distillery site, North Mall and UCC lands in the area.

They also said that the plan should include more "flexible objectives that promote future site development rather than constraint to ensure proper development of educational and health care facilities".

UCC also asked for the council to allow increased student housing on its land between the college and the city centre including the former greyhound track.

Semi-state ESB wants the Wilton district centre expanded to include its lands which would boost their value. Alvonway Investments, which owns the shopping centre there, asked for more flexibility to allow the centre be redeveloped and said the amount of retail space should be revised upwards.

The manager said expanding the centre to include the ESB's land would be inappropriate and recommended no change to the permitted retail cap at Wilton.

Heineken Ireland, meanwhile, said the Murphy's brewery at Leitrim Street should be protected but said that the city-centre retail area, where the Beamish & Crawford brewery it now owns is located, should have a mixed-use designation. It also said a proposed pedestrian link with the brewery should be moved.

Heineken disappointed the city when it closed the Beamish brewery and said it would sell it off to the highest bidder. It had been hoped that the brewery would be retained in some form, even as a microbrewery.

Sunday Tribune

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