Cork County Council has voted to amend its County Development Plan to support the creation of a Kildare Village style retail outlet between Little Island and Carrigtwohill.
Fine Gael Cllr Michael Hegarty proposed the Amendment to the 2014 Development Plan with the backing of his Party colleague, Anthony Barry.
It is expected the project, if developed, would create 640 jobs in the construction phase and 850 permanent positions.
In all, 42 of the Councillors in the County voted for the amendment to provide strategic planning for a retail outlet centre along the N25.
Four Cllrs objected to the plan with one abstention from County Mayor, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan.
Independent Cllr Marcia Dalton, Environmental Engineer, and Cllr Alan O’Connor of the Green Party were among those to raise concerns with the variation to the County Blue Print.
Both Cllrs said they had serious issues regarding the carbon impact that would be associated with the retail outlet, which could see up to 35,000 car trips a week.
Ms Dalton said she also feared that such a development would impact negatively on the commercial life of Cork City and our towns and villages, which require investment from Cork County Council.
Mr O’Connor, who represents the citizens of Carrigtwohill on the Cobh Municipal District, said it was a “textbook example of unsustainable development”
He said despite climate action initiatives in the National Development Plan, Ireland will fail to meet commitments by 2024 and this development would compound that.
Social Democrat, Holly McKiever Cairns, said she “wholeheartedly” objected to the plan, labelling it “short sighted.”
“The Study, commissioned by the Council, acknowledged that 90% of all visitors to the proposed facility will travel by car. By passing the Amendment we are moving to a less sustainable type of consumerism. It is short-sighted and I wholeheartedly object to it” she said.
Liam Quaide of the Green Party said the proposed variation in favour of a “gigantic” retail outlet will promote an unsustainable car dependency and undermine local business.
He said he didn’t buy the argument that items in the retail outlet will be significantly different from those on sale from retailers in Midleton, Cobh or Youghal.
“A Ralph Lauren shirt in the retail outlet is not majorly different from a Giordano shirt in Bertelli Menswear Midleton. If the Ralph Lauren shirt is sold at knockdown prices in the outlet centre, the retailer doesn’t stand a chance.”
He said “addressing the climate crisis will involve supporting small local businesses, not pitting them against large International Corporations.”
Fine Gael Cllr Susan McCarthy, whose husband owns a Newsagency on Midleton’s Main Street, said a retail outlet will impact online trade more than retailers.
She said “businesses in towns and villages are struggling” and “this is something that will bring more into our economy not less of it.”
Ms McCarthy added “these villages cater for people travelling specifically for these items”
“If we don’t provide the brands people will go elsewhere, with a much larger carbon foot print.”
Fellow Fine Gael Cllr Anthony Barry said it was a great opportunity for East Cork.
The Carrigtwohill based Cllr said an outlet centre would enhance the tourism offering in Cork.
A regular visitor to Kildare Village, he said he was blown away by the number of Cork registered cars that shop there.
“I would much prefer those cars to stay locally in the Cork region. I would much prefer to spend my money locally, supporting local jobs and supporting the jobs in Cork.”
Mr Barry said that, regarding sustainability, there is a rail line running along the route that offers an opportunity for people to combine a trip to the outlet with a stay in Cork City.
After almost 2 hours of debate Cllr Seamus McGrath requested the decision be deferred pending further information.
The Fianna Fail Cllr requested a report on the impact which these retail outlets would have on towns and villages, as it had “the potential to suck the life out of them.”
Mr McGrath also sought an Environmental Report on such a development.
However, County CEO Tim Lucey reiterated that the Cllrs were not being asked to vote on a Planning Application, but rather a variation on the County Development Plan.
He said any Planning Application would stand or fall on its merits.
The Chief Executive said at present there was capacity for 100,000 square meters of retail space in the County, and the retail outlet would account for just 13,000 square meters.
Mr Lucey added that Cllrs had since 20 December last to make a decision on the proposal, and that legal advice sought by Council concluded a vote was required by 31 January.