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Why cars and motorways aren't the keys to Cork's future

The recently announced Ireland 2040 project has positioned the Cork city region for 50 per cent growth with a planned increase in population of 125,000 people for Cork city and suburbs. Cork Chamber has repeatedly made the argument that Cork could act as a counter balance to Dublin.

They are not alone.

This position also been supported by other commentators this year. Indeed, Cork has great potential and its relatively small size means the city can manoeuvre and ensure it positions itself more easily than larger cities.

But, in my opinion, many local policymakers and local interest groups need a wake-up call. The future driver of cities will not be car dependency, new motorways or more car parking, or leap-frog development resulting in commuter satellite towns, or more roads, or business development that is disconnected from liveable communities.

Cork is home to the most deprived residential local electoral area in Ireland

Cork already has all of those features – and there’s no fear of it falling behind in these respects, either: in the National Development Plan, the government has committed twice as much funding to roads infrastructure as it has to public transport, cycling, and walking infrastructure combined.

The future is all about ideas, and cities that create better "spaces" for idea generation will be the leading cities of the future.

Consequently, the new paradigm for success in a world of widespread automation will depend less on traditional and obvious growth drivers and more on nuanced "softer" place-specific factors.

A community of artists and urbanists is attempting to force a new way of thinking about Cork city

For instance, the design and liveability of the built environment is becoming more important. Places need to ensure cognitive proximity of people, create spaces conducive for face-to-face interaction and spaces needed to maximise the well-being of citizens.

This translates into cities requiring a higher density of living, an enhanced environment for cultural and creative actors, well-designed public spaces, "green" family-orientated housing, and healthy liveable areas that are close to where people work and socialise, and where the hierarchy and priority of mobility will be – in this order – walking, cycling, bus transport or transit, followed by the car.