Ambitious Plans for Hawlbowline Island
IRELAND'S most polluted industrial site, Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour, is set to be transformed by the second-biggest State development after Dublin's ISFC.
Enterprise Minister Michael Martin revealed yesterday that a special interdepartmental team would mastermind the blueprint of the multimillion-euro development of the former Irish Steel site.
Mr Martin, supported by Finance Minister Brian Cowen and Education Minister Mary Hanafin, confirmed that the project would mirror the showcase of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority.
"Cork is one of the world's great natural harbours and we want to see its potential exploited," said Mr Martin. "This project will transform Haulbowline and the lower Cork Harbour, making it an attractive place to work, live and do business."
He refused to speculate on the final development cost, although it is expected to run to hundred of millions of euros, given that the clean-up of the toxic pollutants from Haulbowline alone could reach €30m. "This 44-acre site has the potential to be the most attractive waterside site in Europe," said Mr Martin.
"Haulbowline has unique attractions, including the National Maritime College and the UCC Marine Research Centre.
"These and its longstanding marine traditions will form the basis for a complete redevelopment plan," he said.
Among the initiatives being earmarked in the development blueprint are:
* More than 200 luxury apartments.
* A state-of-the-art marina with a clubhouse and competition facilities.
* A world-class, 300-bedroom hotel.
* A maritime museum dedicated to Cork's nautical heritage.
* A landmark office building.
The project got cautious approval in Cork yesterday, although one former Irish Steel employee, former Labour TD for Cork East John Mulvihill, said the plan lacked specifics.
A contract is currently being processed for the demolishing of the derelict Irish Steel buildings and the removal of the worst of the contaminated material.
One Government environmental report has indicated that it could take up to five years to decontaminate and clean up the site - and it could cost over €30m.
The Irish Steel plant was closed in June 2001 with its parent company, Ispat International, claiming that the plant was losing over €1.2m per month. More than 400 workers lost their jobs, with a dozen private firms, suppliers and service contractors either collapsing or having to slash their workforces because of the steel mill's closure.
Mr Mulvihill warned that Cork Harbour was being subjected to "death by a thousand cuts" because of the ongoing controversy over Irish Steel/Irish Ispat and the failure to clean the site.
Following the collapse, Ispat International took a claim for €29m, which it claimed it was owed by its Irish subsidiary.
Ispat International claimed that the money was owed after it was forced to use its cash to prop up the failing subsidiary, which it had purchased for £1 in 1995/96 from the then-Rainbow Coalition.
Irish Ispat owed most to State and semi-State agencies. Workers were owed €7m, of which more than €900,000 was for statutory redundancy payments already taken in hand by the Government.
Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin revealed yesterday that the Government has commissioned a master plan for the 44-acre site on Haulbowline Island in Ringaskiddy. He said it represented a unique opportunity for private investment of several hundred million euro, with the potential to develop 16,000 square metres of office space, 200 apartments, a 225-berth marina, a 300-bedroom hotel and a maritime museum.
Ringaskiddy and District Residents Association chairman Braham Brennan said: “We have been told nothing about the plans for Haulbowline but, although this kind of development would be good in the area, we must have a voice in its development as it will affect our lives.”
The island, linked by bridge to Ringaskiddy, is owned by the Department of Defence and is home to the Naval Service headquarters and National Maritime College. It is a short distance from the country’s first proposed toxic waste incinerator, planning permission, which is the subject of a judicial review sought by local residents.
Last night, Mr Brennan said locals will not be accepting any trade-off from the Government in return for their backing of incinerator plans by Indaver Ireland, a private waste management company.
“We’re awaiting hearing of a judicial review and we’re also seeking one against the EPA for giving a licence for the incinerator.”
He said residents have also yet to be consulted on plans for a bridge link from Ringaskiddy to a proposed new prison on Spike Island.
Mr Martin insisted the plan for Haulbowline was not a trade-off for residents.
“The whole Ringaskiddy area is predominantly manufacturing but we have an opportunity here for a mix of tech industries using offices, residential and tourist-related facilities in a very attractive site in the lower harbour,” he said.
Cork County Council welcomed the proposals and a spokesperson said it looks forward to future discussions on the site’s development.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment