Wednesday 28 November 2007

Plan to rezone sports lands for homes and education campus

A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to rezone sports land for houses on the site of one of country’s most famous hurling schools in a €50 million redevelopment plan was submitted yesterday.

The move, to secure the redevelopment of St Finbarr’s-Farranferris College in the northside of Cork city, was backed by over a third of the city’s councillors — most from the northside.

This is despite the council repeatedly warning developers to keep their hands off city lands zoned for sport.

The rezoning of the college’s former training grounds is crucial to secure the development of an education campus on the rest of the site, the developer behind the project said.

A motion signed by 11 councillors was submitted to City Hall yesterday, calling for the adoption of a local area plan for the former Farranferris seminary site, owned by the diocese of Cork and Ross.

It was closed last year and developer and former past pupil Michael O’Flynn prepared a blueprint for its future last April. It called for:

* A total refurbishment of the main building.

* Construction of six new high-tech office buildings.

* The development of 108 private residential units on the site’s former training pitches.

The buildings will house services by Cork VEC, FÁS, Cope Foundation, Rehab, Cabas (special needs services) and Northside Community Enterprises, UCC and CIT. The entire project is aimed at tackling social disadvantage.

Proceeds of the sale of houses on 4.6 hectares (11.25 acres) would help fund the rest of the project.

A draft local area plan, which has been obtained by the Irish Examiner, describes the housing element as crucial to realise the education and training campus — a stated aim in the city development plan.

“This plan contends that there is therefore a conflict between this policy and another policy which seeks to prevent development occurring on sports pitches.

“A key aim of this area plan, therefore, is to resolve this conflict and prioritise the educational aims of the city plan over the sporting aims,” the plan says.

Mr O’Flynn said he could not see how councillors could be accused of doing a U-turn on their stated policy of preventing development on land zoned for sport: “This is an integrated plan which contains an education campus, and the refurbishment of old buildings.

“This is a unique opportunity for an area that needs investment.

“Councillors have a responsibility to examine all projects on their merits.

“I have consulted widely on this. I feel I have broad local and council support.”

Cllr Damian Wallace (FF), who was among those to sign the motion, said the Farranferris blueprint meets the aim of providing a third-level college on the city’s northside.

“These sports grounds are not active,” he said. “This is an opportunity to provide something of substance for the northside. On balance, it’s far better to rezone these lands than to do nothing.”

The blueprint also contains proposals to provide a three-acre regional park.

Irish Examiner

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