There’s an announcement in the Irish Times today of a planned new town for Cork, 5km north of Cork city on the Mallow railway line.   The town will have a predicted 5,000 dwellings on a 1,000 acre site bordering the rail line to cater for an estimated population of 13,000 (planning will continue over the next 18 months, but development will not start until the masterplan is approved by the Cork County Coucil and the housing market starts to recover).  The site will have a Strategic Development Zone designation (as with Adamstown in South Dublin), which will allow it to bypass standard planning procedure, working to an approved masterplan instead.  Regardless of questions concerning the need for a new town in Cork in the short term given the present levels of housing vacancy and oversupply in the city and county, the positive aspect of this announcement is that the development will be ‘plan-led’ as opposed to the adhocism that has characterised much planning in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years.  This means that infrastructure and services will be built in tandem with housing developments and be guided by principles of developing a sustainable community and underpinned by an agreed masterplan.  The new town, should it go ahead, should have a relative degree of coherence with its inhabitants served by public transport, shops and public facilities such as schools, creches and health services from the get-go, rather than them lagging far behind.  It might not be to everybody’s taste, but its good to see the SDZ approach being used, as a change in planning ethos and implementation away from cronyism, localism and adhocism is needed.

Rob Kitchin