Category Archives: News

My motion to full Council on creating the post of Tree Protection Officer, 10-06-2019

Mine was the dubious landmark of having submitted the first motion of our new Council term. I proposed that Cork County Council would create the post of a Tree Protection Officer. In hindsight, I should have used the term “Tree Officer” instead because the concept would be that the role of such an individual would be not just to optimise the protection of existing valuable trees but also to provide professional advice on when trees become dangerous, pruning/maintenance, planting of appropriate species, disputes about trees on shared boundaries, etc. That’s the kind of remit similar roles in UK local authorities have. It was considered at full Council on Monday and received cross-party support. The Chief Executive has the ultimate say when it comes to staffing. He has suggested that the proposal would go to the Environment Strategic Policy Committee for the practicalities to be fleshed out. So that is what will happen next. The introduction to my motion (at the link below) included an outline of some of the extraordinary and sometimes unconsidered multifaceted benefits of trees. They are essentially an intergenerational piece of infrastructure. We have whole Directorates dedicated to other intergenerational pieces of infrastructure!!!

Introduction to motion: Motion

Streetscape Painting, Signage and Improvement Scheme 2019

Cork County Council‘s Streetscape Painting, Signage and Improvement Scheme has just been released for 2019!
 
This scheme is all about improving the look of town centres throughout the Ballincollig-Carrigaline Municipal District so if you are an owner or tenant of a building on the main street of the town centre in Passage West, Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy, Douglas or Ballincollig, you may qualify for a grant of up to 50% of the cost of painting your building facade and/or a grant of up to 50% for replacing plastic/neon signage with heritage signage. If you want to do the painting yourself, the scheme covers 100% of the cost of materials. If you can get your street or group of buildings to collaborate, a grant of up to 60% is available for facade painting. And if you have a more tricky 3-storey building, additional fund may be available to help you out.
 

The application form and guidelines are available at these links:

Application Form 2019 Paint Scheme

If you would like me to email them to you in Word format, please let me know. Or if you would prefer to fill out a hard copy, they will be available in the Passage West Post Office in the next couple of days.

 

Applications for the scheme for towns going into the City (Ballincollig and Douglas) are to be received by 24th May. Applications for towns staying in the County have a closing date of 28th June.  Areas to be included in the scheme are as follows:

 

 

BALLINCOLLIG

Main Street (R608): West from the junction at Carrigdene to 100m west of Junction at Coolroe (Supervalu shopping centre), Bothar Saclay to Baker Street, including Chapel Gate, Time Square, Chapel Lane Row, Station Road from Main St to Baker Street & The Square.

CARRIGALINE

Western side of R611:

Area South of Carrigaline Court Hotel to Church Hill/ Kilmoney Road junction.

Eastern side of R611:

Area South of Garda station to Church Hill/Kilmoney Road junction.

DOUGLAS

Douglas East, Douglas West, Church Road,  Church Street

PASSAGE WEST

R610 Cork Street through Beach Road to Carrigmahon Hill junction.

Railway Sreet.

Chapel Square

RINGASKIDDY 

N28 From junction at Warren’s Court to junction at Shamrock Place

Main Street

Martello Park

 
 
This is a great scheme. If you have any questions at all, please ring 021-4285058/4285557 or email paintschemebcmd@corkcoco.ie.

My motion to full Council on the Climate Emergency Bill, 11 March 2019

That Cork County Council asks the government, and members  of the Joint Committee on Communications Climate Action and Environment (both TDs and Senators) to bring the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill before the Dáil for consideration such that in this time of climate emergency it may be considered for passing into legislation, with or without appropriate amendments, without delay as an acknowledgment of the fact that we face a climate emergency and cannot hope to limit global temperature rises without leaving 80% of already  proven reserves in the ground.

Introduction to motion:

In February 2018, a year ago, a Dáil majority voted to support the principle of the Climate Emergency Bill which calls for a ban on the issuing of licences for exploration of fossil fuels off Ireland’s coasts.  The Dáil unanimously agreed to refer the Bill to the relevant Select Committee of TDs for detailed scrutiny.  Senators were included in the deliberations.  In December 2018, the committee was expected to send a report to the Dail and the Bill would then have gone to another committee for any amendments.  But the Joint Committee was deadlocked and since then the Bill has been caught in a procedural dispute as to whether it needs a majority of the Joint Committee of TDs and Senators to progress it or just a majority of the Select Committee of TDs only.

We are in a climate emergency.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) has warned that the next ten years will be the most important in our history in making a fast and fair transition to a decarbonised economy.

If we exploit all the fossil fuel reserves already on the books of fossil fuel companies, it would result in a rise in global temperatures well in excess of the temperature limits agreed to in the Paris Agreement. The expert consensus is that 80% already-known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to limit global warming to 2 degC.  It makes no sense to explore for more fossil fuels that cannot be burned.

Ireland’s current path will see us missing our 2020 climate and energy emission reduction targets.  Rather than decrease, our greenhouse gas emissions actually increased by 7% since 2015.  If we continue as we are, it will be virtually impossible to make our 2030 targets.  Enacting this Bill would send a global signal that Ireland recognises that the world is in a state of climate emergency, that the next decade is critical and that we will pursue our energy security, jobs and other social and economic goals without the option of new fossil fuel reserve development.

If we do this, Ireland would be the fifth country globally to ban fossil fuel exploration.  In France in 2017, for example, legislation was passed to end new licences for fossil fuel exploration and to cease all oil and gas extraction by 2040.

People all around Ireland and around the world recognise that we are in a climate emergency.  Tens of thousands of people will take part in climate marches at the end of this week.  And yet the Climate Emergency Bill is stuck in a procedural limbo such that it cannot be voted on by the legislators whom those same people voted into office.

I am asking for your support for:

  1. Amend the motion slightly to better reflect that state of climate emergency:

That Cork County Council asks the government, and members  of the Joint Committee on Communications Climate Action and Environment (both TDs and Senators) to bring the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill before the Dáil for consideration such that in this time of climate emergency it may be considered for passing into legislation, with or without appropriate amendments, without delay as an acknowledgment of the fact that we face a climate emergency and cannot hope to limit global temperature rises without leaving 80% of already  proven reserves in the ground.

  1. Circulate the motion to all local authorities such that their elected members can also reflect the desire of their electorate in supporting actions that commit Ireland to acting on the current climate emergency.

I agree with Cllr O’Sullivan’s suggestion that we would send a message of support to the students on Friday.  We can make it clear to them that at least we as their local government representatives are aware of the current climate emergency.

South Cork Community Development Initiative projects

Please click on this link for a full list of the 67 community and sporting groups in South Cork who have received funding from Cork County Council‘s LCDC Community Development Initiative 2019:
The Fund was massively oversubscribed. In South Cork, 118 applications to a value of €1.7m were received; the fund available for distribution was €500,000.  Throughout the whole county, Cork County Council received 420 applications to a value of €5.7m.  The total fund available for the county at large was €1.5m. 

My submission to An Bord Pleanála re. the proposed Morrison’s Island project

I had but 24 hours to put together a submission to An Bord Pleanála in respect of Cork City Council’s proposed flood defence/public realm works at Morrison’s Island.  I used all 24 of them and had I had 3 times that, could have used all of that too!  However, time being what it was, my submission had to be a distillation of my gravest concerns,  You can read them here: Submission to ABP.  It was hard not to also mention that which perplexes me most: with the finest minds from a multiplicity of disciplines advising that the Morrison’s Island project is not what is best for Cork, why are Cork City Council and the OPW not listening?  We can only hope that An Bord Pleanála will.

  

What’s next for Haulbowline Island?

Remediation of Haulbowline Island – or at least its partial remediation – was in the news yesterday:

The government had promised a “whole of island” approach to the remediation but now seems unable to decide which department is responsible for taking the project forward.

I was concerned about this last June and followed it up in the Council Chamber through a motion which you will find at this link: Motion.  The response from the Department to my motion is here: Response to motion.  (The highlighting is my own.)

Friends of the Irish Environment who had brought the European Commission to see the East Tip contamination in 2011 were also concerned. Their information is that survey work on the island had not merely found the remaining 11 hectares to be physically connected with the 9 hectares of the East Tip but also that the area around the steelworks factory site was that of greatest contamination on the island. They alerted the European Commission to the government’s “breach of promise” by not following through on remediation of either the steelworks factory site or the South Tip: EU_complaint_Haulbowline_full_1.05.18.  (Again, the highlightling is my own.)

Haulbowline is one of this country’s worst pollution legacies. That the government might address the clean-up of only the bit that is relevant to keeping Ireland out of trouble with the European Commission is disgusting, especially as lack of funding cannot be cited as an excuse. Whatever departments are passing the buck on this one need to sort it out fast and get on with it 😠

My motion to full Council on housing for the elderly, 14th January, 2019

“That Cork County Council would carry out an assessment of sheltered housing for the elderly, both public and private, currently available in each town in the county and that, arising from this assessment, Cork County Council would adopt the following policies:

  1. It will be a specific objective of the County Development Plan to provide for sheltered housing for the elderly in every town in the county.
  2. The range of sheltered housing to be provided will allow for both independent and supported living.
  3. The sheltered housing will be provided close to the town centre and/or services and amenities.
  4. The number of sheltered housing units to be provided will be an appropriate proportion of the population of each town.
  5. The Local Area Plan for each Municipal District will identify areas in each town appropriate for the provision of sheltered housing for the elderly.”

The age profile of the Irish population is increasing.  The last Census (2016) saw an increase of over 19% in people aged over 65.  There was also a 15.6% increase in the number of people aged over 85.  This is a huge success story in terms of lifestyle and health but our national and local policies must recognise the implications of this demographic shift and start planning for it now so that we can as a nation embrace rather than fear growing older.

Research carried out by the charity, Alone found that 49% of people aged 60 live alone, more than half in private homes.  Of those, almost 59% live in a house with five rooms or more.

At the same time there are almost 23,000 people in nursing homes.  That is 3.7% of the over 65 population and that percentage continues to increase. In research undertaken in 2017, some of those living in nursing home facilities reported that they moved there because they were alone and could not or did not want to manage their own home any longer.  Despite this, 80% of older adults are negative towards moving into a nursing home (Age Friendly Ireland, 2016).  It is estimated that the cost to the Fair Deal scheme will increase by an additional €729 million annually by 2031 as a result of demographic changes (Alone).

Older people want to age in place but without a choice of appropriate housing, many cannot.  That housing needs to be offered across a spectrum, open to all older people, regardless of whether they qualify for social housing or whether they can avail of private options.  It needs to include both purpose-built homes, dispersed in the community and dedicated sheltered housing in shared and supported schemes.

Community-based supports are critical for all of us but even more important for older people who need to live in close proximity to their family, their social networks, to public transport and other essential public services and to recreation opportunities.  Research indicates that 15% of those aged 65 or over would move to a different home within their community if they had the opportunity to do so. In the UK, this is called right-sizing.

Nobody is better placed to provide for appropriate opportunities for right-sizing to either independent or sheltered living than local authorities.  It takes foresight and planning to ensure that housing for older people is located close to their current homes so that they are not displaced from their communities and social networks.  Our opportunities to do this are at policy level in the County Development Plan and at a practical level in our Municipal Area Plans.

The Joint Housing Strategy requires our Development Plans at either County or Municipal level to include specific policies to secure a housing mix which considers the needs of special groups such as the elderly.  I am glad to hear that this is going to be developed further in the forthcoming review of the County Development Plan.  I would like to see us developing right-sizing policies for our social housing stock.  But what I am urgently seeking support for through this motion is for us as a local authority to ensure that each town has ample provision of a range of houses appropriate for aging.  To actively identify in our Local Area Plans town centre or close to town centre sites that are best placed to develop sheltered housing for the elderly.  I want this process to start now, not in 2024 when the next Local Area Plans are due.  I thank Maurice for his report and for his Department’s efforts.  It is very welcome that houses for older people are being provided through the Capital Assistance Scheme.  But as an example, there are 817 people over 65 in Bandon.  If, as research shows, 15% of these were willing to right-size, that is a requirement for 122 age-appropriate units.  If even half of that requirement were available in the community, the 9 house-scheme currently under construction through the Capital Assistance Scheme is a long way off what is necessary.  And in many cases it does not have to be the local authority or an approved housing body who provides the shortfall but it is necessary that the local authority would provide for them by ensuring appropriate lands in or adjacent to the town centre are identified and available.  If we don’t do this now, we won’t be able to do it.  Those valuable sites will be gone.