By Eoin English
Irish Examiner Reporter
Saturday, October 12, 2019 - 07:47 AM
Planning permission has been granted for the enlarged Cork event centre - more than 1,320 days since the ceremonial sod turning.
The decision by Cork City Council to grant planning to developers BAM for the near €80m 6,000-capacity venue on South Main St was signed on Thursday and comes with 48 conditions.
However it is understood they all are routine and do not include any significant amendments to the revised designs submitted in August 2018.
The decision went live on the council website this evening but it is understood that the developers have yet to receive formal notification by letter.
Pending a possible appeal, the decision clears the way for what is hoped will be the final stages of the protracted saga to deliver the multi-functional arena.
Final contract negotiations should conclude before the end of year to nail down final costs and crucially, the delivery of the complex state funding package - the details of which contributed to the chronic delays.
It's hoped that the "funding certainty" announced by the government last month will allow building work to start next summer.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the project just weeks before the 2016 general election.
But it quickly became mired in controversy. It's been beset by delays and difficulties, it's been redesigned, costs have soared, and it's been hit by planning hurdles and funding uncertainties.
The planning application for the enlarged venue was lodged by BAM in summer 2018.
Enlarged Cork Event Centre gets planning permission
But in October 2018, planners requested a raft of further information on the project, expressing concerns about the "defensive nature" of the building design, the extent of dead frontage and lack of live uses to South Main St and the riverfront.
Last April, BAM sought a six-month extension to address the issues and submitted its response by July.
The revised proposals included reducing to 4,000 the capacity for all-seater events, the inclusion of LED screens on street level to display event and tourism content, a reimagined design to address the "defensive design" concerns overlooking South Gate Bridge, and proposals to locate a ticket office facing onto South Main St.
It was hoped a decision would be made within four weeks but the project was hit with an 11th hour planning hurdle.
A decision was delayed when it was confirmed that a specific environmental study would be required.
It was submitted while efforts continued to resolve the complexities about the state-funding package.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed last month that the government and the various project partners have finally agreed a process to provide the funding certainty.
While there is still no clarity on the final figures, the Taoiseach has said the state will provide the “necessary funding within spending ceilings” to allow Cork City Council enter final contract negotiations later this year with BAM and the venue's proposed operators Live Nation.
It's hoped those talks will conclude before the end of the year, and that builders could be on site by next summer.