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Incinerator will stifle the development of Cork Harbour as a Tourism Hub

An Bord Pleanála recently granted Indaver permission to built a 240,000 tonne incinerator right in the centre of the second largest natural Harbour in the World. Cobh Tourism was and is opposed to this development as it will be detrimental to the development of Tourism in Cork Harbour. If it proceeds tourists won’t stop coming to Cork immediately, but the long term development of tourism will be damaged and Cork will never achieve its potential as the premier tourism destination on the south coast of Ireland. Our product will be irrevocably damaged and Cobh Tourism made strong arguments against this development in writing and at the Oral Hearing

Our written submission, a matter of public record was as follows:

Case Reference: PL04 .PA0045

To build an incinerator on the shores of Cork Harbour will be detrimental to Tourism, Amenity and the quality of life of residents.

Cobh Tourism Ltd. seeks to influence decisions that will affect the development of tourism in Cobh and Cork Harbour by making constructive submissions to the relevant authorities.

Cork Harbour is the second largest natural Harbour in the world and deserves to be treated with respect and developed as a world class centre of tourism, recreation and maritime research.

Tourism is one of Ireland’s most enduring and growing indigenous industries. Overseas visitors bring revenue into Ireland, tourism provides very significant long term sustainable employment and the seasonal revenue from tourism boosts many small independent businesses across the retail, transport and hospitality sectors.

Growing Tourism in Cork – A Collective Strategy was launched in January by the Cork Tourism Strategy Taskforce. The tourism strategy outlines a targeted five year plan (2015-2020) for increasing domestic and international visitor numbers to Cork to 2.8 million with an associated increase in spend in the local economy of €865 million.
The taskforce is comprised of the Chief Executives of Cork City and County Councils, and includes representatives from Fáilte Ireland as well as a number of other stakeholders.

The ambitious tourism strategy was developed following extensive research and several rounds of stakeholder engagement to help develop a compelling, authentic tourism proposition for Cork.

To realise the potential of Cork as a tourism destination in its own right, the authors sought to identify what would set Cork apart as a destination of choice. Cork County’s unique selling proposition is now defined thus:

Cork is a lush coastal playground backed by rolling hills with an endless succession of ports, coves and bays that are a magnet for sailors and those who just love to be by the sea.     IN SHORT ‘Cork is Ireland’s Maritime Paradise with a significant maritime history spanning over a thousand years, set in a beautiful soft coastal environment where the land, the people and their culture will allow you to discover a quirky way to stimulate all of your senses.’ 

In this context ‘Maritime’ means any aspect that is shaped by water. It refers to the vibrant energy and brightness brought to the people, place and activities that are influenced by water. Cork has the longest shoreline of any county in Ireland, the last sunset in Europe and one of the deepest natural harbours in the world.

Cork Harbour and West Cork stand out as the epitome of this very subtle yet very profound proposition. Cork Harbour already sees 100,000 cruise passengers and crew arrive in the Harbour each year. Spike Island already receives 30,000 visitors each year despite still being a raw tourism product. Cobh Heritage Centre receives 65,000 visitors each year and work on implementing this Tourism strategy is just beginning.

Tourism is all about experiences and marketing is all about creating an expectation of the experiences to be enjoyed by tourists. In the case of Cork Harbour the significant maritime history spanning over a thousand years is undeniable. The lush coastal playground backed by rolling hills is still a reality yet the setting in a beautiful soft coastal environment is already damaged. The proposal to build an incinerator on the shores of Cork Harbour, a stone’s throw from Spike Island and the planned amenity site on Haulbowline will deliver a fatal blow to the beautiful soft coastal environment in Cork’s premier Maritime Paradise, Cork Harbour.

While residents of Cork are now accustomed to seeing obtrusive developments in Cork Harbour, visitors to Cork Harbour are surprised to see a Power Station in Aghada, an Oil Refinery in Whitegate, wind turbines in Ringaskiddy and industrial looking port buildings at the Ringaskiddy Deep Water berth.

Any that have seen the Bord Gais Power Station at the mouth of Cork Harbour are horrified.

These are not the sort of developments that one expects in a resort setting or a world renowned natural Harbour.

Cork Harbour is increasingly relied upon by Cork city accommodation providers to engage their guests and help to extend their stay. Cork Harbour is a key pillar of the Cork Tourism Strategy. The strategy’s core marketing message is that Cork offers a lush coastal playground backed by rolling hills and a beautiful soft coastal environment. If the incinerator is built the marketing message becomes a lie, the authenticity of tourism experiences in the Harbour will be questioned and disappointment for visitors will result. Repeat tourism will diminish, referrals and positive reviews will diminish and growth in tourist numbers will slow down and ultimately diminish. Return on investment, economies of scale and the critical volume of tourists needed to attract investment and sustain tourism growth will all be threatened.

In short, building an incinerator and allowing further unnecessary development on the shores of Cork Harbour will be detrimental to Cork Harbour’s potential to act as a pivotal catalyst for tourism growth in Cork.

Cork County Council’s vision to develop Spike Island as a world class tourism destination and public amenity shows the way forward for Cork Harbour. The Spike Island Master plan has already attracted significant funding from Fáilte Ireland, significant investment from Cork County Council and promised funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The people of Cork and beyond have endorsed Spike Island, ranking it on TripAdvisor as number 10 of 131 things to do in Cork. Almost 90% of reviewers rated their visit as excellent or very good.

Is this what this commitment deserves?

Before further irreparable damage is done, Cork Harbour needs a Masterplan of its own. Being a part of four plans because it straddles four Local Areas makes no sense. The people who live here and the businesses that have already invested in the area need the security of a plan that describes and maps an overall development concept for Cork Harbour, including present and future land use, urban design and landscaping, built form, infrastructure, circulation and service provision. This plan must be based upon an understanding of place and the greater good of all.

There are countless sites for development close to Cork Harbour. There is only one Cork Harbour and it deserves better than inappropriate development on its shores.

 

From a tourism perspective alone this development cannot be allowed to proceed.

 

The Board of Cobh Tourism would respectfully request that an Oral Hearing into this proposal be held.

Site visits are an integral part of the planning process and all civil engineering projects. We would therefore also respectfully request that the Oral Hearing will take a “break out” session to visit first hand the site in Ringaskiddy, the NMCI, the Beaufort Building of the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI), Ringaskiddy village, Spike Island and Cobh. The real essence of what Cork Harbour is and the aspirations of its many stakeholders to make Cork Harbour great can only be fully appreciated and understood by visiting these sites and listening to their champions. In addition the naked eye will see much more than a photomontage suggests it should see.

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