Alarm as €2m funds to kick off Docklands plan deferred
By Eoin English and Conor Ryan
Saturday, July 04, 2009
THE Government is under fire for stalling a decision to release just €2.3 million to help kickstart the State’s largest urban regeneration scheme.
Cork’s Lord Mayor Cllr Dara Murphy said the decision to defer vital funding for infrastructure for the city’s ambitious Docklands plan could bring the entire project grinding to a halt.
His warning follows confirmation from Environment Minister John Gormley that funding decisions relating to crucial Docklands infrastructure projects have been deferred "having regard to the prevailing budgetary constraints".
Mr Gormley revealed the decision in a written reply to a parliamentary question. Mr Murphy said he was alarmed by the move.
"The withdrawal of this funding is extremely shortsighted and shows a bias against the southern capital," he said.
The city council immediately needs €2.3m to appoint a design team for the proposed Eastern Gateway Bridge, the Lord Mayor insisted.
The €80m swing bridge, which will be the largest of its kind in Europe, is designed to unlock the entire south docks area for redevelopment.
The council applied in 2007 to the Government’s Gateway Innovation Fund for €60m to help build it. It has been waiting for an announcement since.
But Mr Murphy said the decision to defer funding will effectively "handcuff a progressive local authority".
The council has been working for several years on the project.
Howard Holdings has been granted planning permission for its €2bn Atlantic Quarter project. Several other major docklands projects are in the pipeline.
The council has spent over €5m on preliminary design and planning approval for the bridge. A public hearing into land acquisition has been held and a decision is expected from An Bord PleanÃ¡la within weeks.
The council has completed the tender process for a design team and needs just €2.3m to formally appoint the team.
The council hopes the building work will start in April 2011 and that the bridge will open to traffic in the first quarter of 2013.
But Cork Chamber chief executive, Conor Healy said the minister’s announcement is "completely unacceptable and lacks clarity".
"It is disgraceful that the Government is now going down the line of cutting back on productive capital and infrastructural expenditure, with proven cost benefit analyses, which are vital to the future of Ireland’s economy," he said.
The Cork Docklands Forum, set up by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2007 and chaired by ex-UCC president Professor Gerry Wrixon, says the potential of the project — the biggest proposal since the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin 20 years ago — is huge.
The forum also recommended that the Exchequer should fund hundreds of millions of euro worth of infrastructure to kickstart the development.
Its report has yet to be published.
This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, July 04, 2009http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/snojojqley/rss2/#ixzz0KVG43MRG&D