Wednesday 12 December 2018

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Cork Independent

INDOpinion

‘We must be heard’

Thursday, 29th November, 2018 9:04am

For the last four years, it has been my privilege to represent the town of Ballincollig in County Hall.

This is where I am from, went to school and made my home.

As the largest town in county Cork, it presents its own challenges and rewards.

Boasting Ballincollig Regional Park, the Tidy Towns award and more, make Ballincollig a destination location with lots of employment opportunities. It is a great place to live, work and raise a family.

However, the challenges can be just as great. No greater challenge faces Ballincollig than the impending city boundary extension. We should look back at some of the history.

The entire process of setting to review the city’s boundary, as set out in the MacKinnon Report, was flawed. That the citizens who were to be affected by the change were never consulted, was and remains the greatest failing. When the Minister sought to implement it by diktat he was forced to back down. He backed down because Fianna Fáil councillors in Cork county made it clear they would judicially review an order he purported to make.

At present, the bill to change the boundary is meandering its way through the Dáil. Such a process cannot be challenged by the courts. However, with local elections due in some six months, it does not inspire confidence that the boundary still has not been resolved.

People in Ballincollig have rightly asked why TDs who were elected to represent them nationally have not tabled amendments or spoken up about the issue in the Dáil. Those questions remain to be answered.

Further still, as plans are put in place for change, the lack of certainty on local governance structures is giving rise to problems.

As things stand, Cork County Council will administer the new city areas in 2019. It has been suggested that this might go onto 2020, and possibly further. This is what’s called a ‘service level agreement’. The last occasion such an agreement was entered into of prominence was between Irish Water and the councils. That, from my experience, was an unmitigated disaster.

What is being asked is that the county area for 2019 will fund and carry out works in areas that it knows it will lose to the city. County Council staff will be responsible for works, assessing planning permissions and all other local government functions until the Dáil implements legislation, financial provisions put in place and transitional matters including staff and administrative files transferred. All-in-all, it's quite an enormous body of work to do.

In my view it’s all a mess. Worse still, it’s a mess that will lead to problems. You cannot plan into uncertainty. Uncertainty can lead to loss of opportunity and growth. The Brexit mess across the water has shown us this.

Community organisations need to be in a position to plan ahead. Can guarantees be given that our community organisation will not have their funding cut?

The development plan concerning the areas in question will be for review in 2020, but who is working on this? Local authority development plans are important, and provide the basis for accessing national funding.

Recent media reports about the Science and Technology Park planned for Curraheen are further evidence of the uncertainty. I have little confidence that any body that loses control of an area would have the interest and motivation to satisfactorily look after that area.

Ballincollig did not develop into the area it has by accident. There has been a lot of planning, hard work and stakeholder involvement all adding to the picture.

We must be heard, supported and worked with for the growth to continue.

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