By Sean O'Riordan
A 57-acre site which was purchased by a local authority for housing more than 20 years ago may not see anything built on it for at least another 10 years.
Angry county councillors have questioned why the land remains idle in Cobh, County Cork. They are also furious that council officials haven't drawn up a multi-use masterplan for it, primarily because sporting organisations could move into the site almost immediately.
Councillors recently sought a masterplan to be "drawn up without delay" for the site at Ballynoe.
They reacted angrily when they received a report from the Planning Policy Unit in County Hall. They were informed that the land could be used for up to 700 new homes and would be close to a large commercial centre at Ticknock.
Planners said the site could also accommodate some commercial activities and a school. The report added that planners had only given the site a 'Priority Three' ranking for development, which is the lowest scale.
Cllr Cathal Rasmussen said he is extremely angry that planners rejected the request from the municipal district council.
Clubs have made submissions to the local municipal district council for use of some of the land, which was approved by councillors. However, the lack of the masterplan for the site means they can't move in there because they don't know what part of the land they'd occupy.
"This site is there 20 years or more - it's like a jungle now, it's so overgrown. Infrastructure isn't required for what we're asking for right now and what they're telling us is we'll have to wait another 10 years for houses to be built there, which is madness," Cllr Kieran McCarthy said.
Cllr Padraig O'Sullivan said he has met with the sporting clubs which have expressed an interest in using some of the land. He said the County Council has "bent over backwards" to facilitate the FAI's plans for a €10m 'centre of excellence' in Glanmire and he can't see why the council can't do the same thing in Cobh for the local clubs.
Cllr Sinead Sheppard said she is also "very disappointed" with the response as part of the land is "really badly-needed for the youth of the town".
Sean O'Callaghan, the municipal district council's senior executive officer, agrees that the response from the planners falls short of what they had requested. He said he will take up the matter directly with the Council's head of planning and report back to them.