PLANNING is expected to be granted today for three bridges over the River Lee to help kick-start one of the state’s most ambitious regeneration projects.
An Bord Pleanála is expected to give the green light for the bridges – one of which will be the largest swing bridge in Europe – as well as the development of several major roads to facilitate the multibillion-euro revamp of the city’s 166-hectare docklands.
The decision comes almost two years after Cork City Council submitted its plans for the iconic Eastern Gateway bridge, linking Tivoli and the south docks, the Water Street bridge and the so-called spine roads, including Centre Park Road and Monaghan Road.
The board held three oral hearings in December after the Port of Cork objected to certain aspects of the bridge plans.
The city’s Lord Mayor, Dara Murphy, said he understands today’s decision will be positive. "The time has come now for the Government to fully back this major infrastructural project, which is not just critical for the greater Metropolitan Cork region but for the country as a whole. We don’t expect a cheque this year but we must be looking at this over the next three to five years as the country moves out of recession."
An economic study on the benefits of Government investment in public infrastructure in Cork Docklands showed that the regeneration could create 15,000 jobs and generate €610m per annum for the greater Cork metropolitan region.
Most of the infrastructure was priced several years ago – the Eastern Gateway Bridge had a price tag of €80m – and it is hoped that certain savings could be made.
Several major docklands planning applications have been lodged recently, including for the redevelopment of the R&H Hall site and the Topaz site.
It is hoped securing planning permission for the public infrastructure today will give certainty to landowners considering projects.
City manager Joe Gavin said about 20% of what is planned for the docklands can proceed without the infrastructure, but credit must begin to flow again. He said despite the current economic conditions, planning applications are still being processed so that projects are ready to go when the economy picks up.