The proposed site for the planned retail outlet centre in Carrigtwohill.

OPR: Local democracy ‘must be respected’

The Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) has responded to criticism from Cork County Council regarding plans for a €100 million retail outlet centre in Carrigtwohill.

Plans for the retail outlet centre had apparently been finalised with the launch of the County Development Plan (CDP) 2022–2027 earlier this month.

However, based on advice from the OPR, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien TD, issued a draft direction to Cork County Council highlighting a number of objections to elements of the plan.

In a statement issued to the Cork Independent, a spokesperson for the OPR said that while the local democratic process must be respected, the national Government should also be able to intervene in some cases to ensure the overarching planning objectives can be achieved.

The spokesperson said: “The OPR does not set planning policy. This is the responsibility of the minister and Government. Nor does the OPR make local authority development plans. This is a reserved functions for local authority members only.

“However, where the OPR considers that national or regional policy has not been correctly applied in a draft development plan, it can make a recommendation to local authority to address the matter.

“Once the plan is adopted, the OPR then considers how these recommendations have been addressed by the local authority and can, where the matter is considered to be of importance, recommend to the Minister that he or she issues a direction to the local authority to take certain steps to remedy this situation.”

“Since its inception, the OPR has made approximately 400 recommendations on local authority plans. The vast majority of these have been accepted and/or satisfactorily addressed by the local authority without requiring a recommendation to the minister.

“Where local authorities put forward good proposals to meet strategic requirements that might offer reasonable alternatives to our recommendations, we are often happy to accept those. This means that ultimately, the development plans councillors adopt, across the 31 local authorities, work together to collectively address pressing societal, economic and environmental issues in the public interest,” the spokesperson concluded.

The OPR and the Minister Darragh O’Brien have advised that a joint retail study must be carried out by Cork County Council and Cork City Council before plans for the retail outlet centre can proceed.