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Traffic and environmental improvements in north Cork

Traffic and environmental improvements in north Cork

This project included a fairly detailed assessment of traffic and environmental conditions in the Blackpool Valley. A number of projects and proposals were put forward for action to improve conditions, especially for pedestrians. By 2010 many of these improvements had been implemented, involving reallocation of roadspace from vehicles to pedestrians, and removing footway crossovers that involved pedestrians negotiating kerbs.

The study was to some extent encumbered by pre-existing proposals for a by-pass and a major out-of-town car-based retail facility to the north of Blackpool village. Many of the recommended actions were designed to "lock in" the benefits of reduced traffic in the village, by improving public realm quality.

By the year 2010, the by-pass and many of the proposed improvements had been implemented (see before and after images to the right). 

How good is the outcome?

There is no doubt that the removal of heavy traffic, and heavy vehicles in particular, from Watercourse Road has enabled a step-change improvement in the quality of the environment. There are tanglible benefits for pedestrians, car users and traders, and perhaps for bus users as well. By 2010 the study appeared to have been forgotten, and a new "Area Action Plan" had been prepared for Blackpool. This can be downloaded here.

Catering for the car

There is another side to the story. The provision of major new road capacity in the shape of the Blackpool by-pass encouraged and enabled the large car-based retail facilities to be built to the north of Blackpool. So while the trading environment of Blackpool village has been improved by the removal of heavy traffic, this must be weighed against the strong trading competition introduced by the car-based facility. Passing trade for Blackpool village traders will also have been reduced by the removal of through traffic to the by-pass. 

The Blackpool retail park website rather oddly is headed "The centre of Cork". The related "business campus" boasts 1,800 free car parking spaces. (See So, while the by-pass (also known as the northern ring road) relocated traffic away from the historic parts of Blackpool, the total volumes of traffic will have been much increased by the large-scale car-based facilities immediately to the north.

I have no information as to where the balance of economic advantage lies; whether businesses in Blackpool village have done better or worse since the study was undertaken in 1996. 

A questionable by-pass?

The by-pass plans were to be taken as "given". However, during the course of the study, the project team became aware of flaws in the concept and alignment of the proposed new road. These concerns were communicated to Cork Corporation, but in the end the road was built as originally planned. As so often is found, once the momentum behind a scheme has built up, it is virtually impossible to secure modifications or abandonment. Readers will not have to look far amongst the projects reported on this website to find other regrettable examples. All too often serious probing questions are not asked until after the point at which scheme promoters have stopped listening. 

LocationCork Ireland
Client(s)Cork Corporation, Ireland
Team(s)Tim Pharoah with Llewelyn-Davies


Environmental improvements, pedestrian priority, by-pass, out-of-town, town centre vitality, street design, traffic management, public realm, Watercourse Road, Blackpool Valley, Cork, Blackpool retail park, business campus