Friday 27 March 2009

€1bn Cork docklands plan gets go-ahead amid call for funding

THE ambitious €1 billion Atlantic Quarter project in Cork’s docklands got the green light from planners last night.

The mixed-use scheme, seen as a catalyst for the entire docklands regeneration, has the potential to create 4,800 jobs and provide homes for thousands of people.

Developers Howard Holdings welcomed the decision and called again on the Government to deliver funding for critical infrastructure to kickstart the city’s massive docklands regeneration.

"Howard Holdings is obviously delighted with the decision of Cork City Council, to grant planning and the company is reviewing the conditions at the moment," a spokesperson said.

"It’s the first step in the realisation of the docklands vision in Cork and in time, will represent a significant opportunity for Cork and the wider area.

"We now need the Government to commit to the necessary infrastructure to give the market the confidence and make this happen."

Planners attached 24 conditions, but gave the company 10 years in which to deliver its vision.

Once complete, Atlantic Quarter will feature a 51m-span swing bridge over the River Lee, which is dependent on Government funding, a "family" of three soaring cylindrical apartment towers, four huge office buildings with over half-a-million square feet of space, a 200-bed hotel, and a 5,500-person events centre called the Arena.

The tower blocks will feature publicly-accessible roof gardens.

Among the conditions are a reduction by three storeys of one of the project’s three landmark towers — from 19 storeys to 16.

The developers must provide, at their own expense, a shuttle bus service from Atlantic Quarter to the city, and appoint a mobility manager for the development.

A raft of other material changes to the height and design of several other buildings are also proposed.

The total number of car parking spaces on site will be capped at 1,830 spaces, with a maximum of 300 for the events centre, which may be increased to a maximum of 600 on condition that the 1,530 spaces intended to serve the remainder of the proposed development are reduced accordingly by 300.

Last year, Howard Holdings chief executive Greg Coughlan described Atlantic Quarter as a catalyst for other docklands schemes to follow. But he has repeatedly called on the Government to provide crucial "Gateway" money to part-fund the construction of the swing bridge.

The city council has submitted a funding application and a decision is awaited. However, there are fears that the collapse in the State’s finances will mean the money is not forthcoming.

In the meantime, An Bord Pleanála is due to rule in August on compulsory purchase orders to facilitate the bridge construction.

Atlantic Quarter was launched last year. The planning application contained in dozens of boxes was submitted to council on March 7, 2008 and was so large, a separate room was set aside to assess it.

Irish Times

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