Growth Plans for Cork are 'Delusional' if we focus on building roads

This article was published after my presentation at the Southern Construct conference in the evening echo it can be retrieved here and was written by Robert McNamara.

A UCC expert has warned that plans for regional development in cities like Cork over the next two decades may be “delusional”.

Addressing the (CIF) Southern Construct conference, Dr Frank Crowley of the School of Economics, UCC, said Cork City Council needs more autonomy and better interventions to tackle urban sprawl and the loss of talent from the region if development targets are to be met.

Project Ireland 2040 outlines that Cork could grow its population to 360,000, but Mr Crowley believes this may not be realistic.

“The present set-up is that there is a pro-Dublin development bias. Dublin already has a huge comparative advantage,” Mr Crowley said.

“It’s got a greater population density and therefore it has a greater proximity of talent, innovative firms, productive firms. That is a better relative ecosystem for learning and, from that, you get new ideas and innovations that will drive future jobs.”

He said an emphasis on developing road infrastructure within the 2040 plans will only lead to urban sprawl, congestion, and dispersed development. He added that public transport must be prioritised to drive growth.

“If you have a car dependency of 75%, you don’t have a road problem, you have a public transport problem.

“What I see in terms of the data is continuous significant divergence towards the capital city. Will Ireland 2040 change that story? That’s one of the key questions. Dublin is getting more of the pie per capita basis. When we look at the big interventions that are being made — MetroLink, Bus Connects, the Dart — they are all interventions that the region needs.

“If we look at the Cork city region, roads to sustainable transport is seven to one. Car dependency is already 75%. It’s a delusion to think we are going to get a counterbalance within the provisional city-regions given the Ireland 2040 project at the moment.

“The case for convergence and to invest in provincial cities is extremely strong [but] second-tier cites need more autonomy and much more of the Ireland 2040 pie that they are getting at the moment and they need smarter interventions,” Mr Crowley added.