MORE than 200 people packed into the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery on Friday morning to hear Cork County Council CEO Tim Lucey deliver a detailed briefing on the activities and plans of the council in the West Cork and Bandon / Kinsale municipal districts for the coming year.
Mr Lucey was introduced by County Mayor Seamus McGrath while those in attendance included local TDs Jim Daly, Margaret Murphy O’Mahony and Michael Collins as well as local councillors, business people and representatives from various community and voluntary groups.
In a detailed speech Mr Lucey outlined the achievements of the council over the previous 12 months as well as detailing plans for investment in the short and medium term.
Mr Lucey said that unemployment in the South West now stood at 6.5%, the lowest of any region in the country and that the last 12 months had seen significant progress with the commencement of flood relief schemes in Bandon and Skibbereen as well as the completion of public realm upgrades in Clonakilty.
He acknowledged that the biggest negative in terms of perception of the council continued to be the state of the county’s roads and said that state funding for roads in Cork was now only about a third of where it was in 2008. He said despite this the council had managed to maintain more than 80% of its own contribution level for roads funding in that period even though the budget from government had been cut by more than half. He said he was hopeful that 2017 and 2018 would see increases in the budget enabling the council to carry out more repairs, resurfacing works and realignments.
He warned that a potential boundary extension for the city would be “massively damaging” to the finances of the County Council and said it would be one of the critical issues facing the authority in the coming years. He also said that the huge size of the West Cork Municipal District was something the council would like to see addressed in the future with the possibility of an extra district to be introduced in the West Cork area to allow councillors to work more effectively at a local level.
He said that priorities in the short term would be ensuring the continued success of local LEADER funded projects that have now moved to the control of a council-run body from the West Cork Development Partnership. He also said the council would be pursuing an aggressive policy to tackle dereliction over the next few years.
On pay parking he said that those towns in the region where it was in operation (Bandon and Kinsale) €2 million had been reinvested directly into infrastructure. He reiterated the council’s commitment to freeze commercial rates until 2021 and said that “Cork County Council will not put any business out of businesses for not paying rates, you can take that from me”.
On tourism he said that the overall picture was positive but that visitor numbers to County Cork had levelled off in 2014 and 2015 and that the focus would be on growing visitor numbers from continental Europe, Germany and France in particular and emphasising Cork as a maritime destination for domestic tourists. Among the top infrastructure priorities would be the Dursey cable car and visitor centre that is budgeted to cost in the region of €7.2 million to develop.
He outlined a number of projects in the pipeline for the main towns in the region including the Bandon flood relief, drainage and public realm enhancement schemes; the public realm scheme for Skibbereen; Clonakilty flood relief scheme due in 2017; the Dunmanway swimming pool; proposed Bantry music hall as well as various works for smaller towns and villages across the region.
In terms of future growth Clonakilty is set to see the biggest population rise over the next six years going from 4,721 in 2011 to 7,218 followed by Bantry growing from 3,348 to 5,841 while Bandon is projected to remain marginally the biggest town in the region with a projected population of 7,765.