Paul Murphy

Cork County Council

Thank you chairman, ladies and gentleman welcome to Cork . We are very honoured to have such a gathering here today and it is a privilege to be  on this stage.


My name is Paul Murphy. Iím a Senior Planner with Cork County Council and what I am going to do as briefly as I can is to go through what we have been doing on landscape and landscape character assessment in Cork County Council in the last while.  I work in the policy section of Cork County Council, the Planning Policy Unit.


Cork County , it seems you have had some of the statistics already. The population is 324,000 and the area is 7,464 square kilometres. The largest council in Ireland but I think you had some of this from the Mayor already this morning so I wonít delay with the facts as it were on the size of County Cork .


What I want to do as briefly as I can is to outline what in terms of landscape and policies on landscape, what we have done, what we are doing and what we hope to do. The past, the present and the future as it where.


In Cork County which has been mentioned by the previous speakers we have had county development plans since the early 1970ís and the county development plans have had designated scenic routes. .  We have over 1,000 kilometres of designated scenic routes in Cork County together with  designated scenic areas and these have  been  designated since the 1970ís, they have never been upgraded or reviewed since the 1970ís so there is a big need to look at our scenic routes, our designated areas and indeed a commitment has been given which I will get to in the minute about what we have to do.


We have designated scenic routes and they are somewhat out of date to some extent. In 2003 we published our new County Development Plan and as well as having these designated scenic routes in that plan we are trying to introduce for the first time in Cork County the concept of Landscape Character Assessment as indicated by Bruce earlier as part of the government guidelines and landscape character assessment.


We use the landscape character assessment to identify areas, strategic areas for wind farms and wind farm development and that is in our development plan.  We also identified the landscape character areas and we worked on the areas for the county at large and we broke it down to the smallest units practicabke.  Which is 16 generic landscape character areas for the county and I will show a slide of that in the minute.  That is what we have done.


What we are currently doing in Cork County in the policy unit. We have just published 10 local area plans. I think Bruce mentioned that this is the next layer, you have the National Spatial Strategy, The Regional Guidelines, County Development Plan and then you have the Local Area Plans. 


We published earlier this year 10 in all, the 10 local area plans that are relevant to the landscape issue and we are three quarters of the way through the democratic / legal process of these local area plans and they have covered the entire county of Cork and have focused primarily on the villages and on the landscape in the county outside the major towns and landscape character assessment we felt this is an opportunity to bring forward the landscape character assessment process as identified in government guidelines and bring it to the next stage and it formed a significant part in the local area plans in the spring.


We went out to 24 different exhibitions around the county in early January looking for public response to our local area plans.  We had 24 public exhibitions in the villages of County Cork because the local area plans they look at the villages as against the bigger towns and focusing on the small units of where people live. We had a lot of discussion on landscape in the halls and in the community groups but when the legal date was finished and the closing date was finished we got something  over 2,000 submissions for  all the local plans for the entire county but only 30 of those related to landscape notwithstanding some of the very interesting discussions we had on landscape at some of these meetings,  many talk and few do is the best way I can put it.  We felt we would have liked to have gotten more of a response on landscape and landscape issues across the county but we didnít. We got something approximately  30 out of  2,000.


This leads on to the next thing what do we need to do, what to do in the future.


We need to complete the landscape character area process and as I said earlier we need to review our scenic routes in the county and we  need to marry landscape character assessment and some method of reviewing the scenic routes.


Now we are very conscious that there is a risk involved in removing old designations of scenic routes because it has been one of the primary bulwarks to inappropriate development not only in Cork but probably in Ireland so we have a big challenge ahead of us how to review the scenic routes and how to move forward with the landscape character assessment, are they compatible, can one frame the other or can they be combined.  We have a big issue and it is a big challenge we will face in the next two years.


What I will do now I will briefly just go through these images


These are the 16 generic areas in Cork , you can see the city there in red and I donít know if you can read it the different landscape character tags.  I think on Saturday you go to West Cork and you will be moving from right to left across the county. 


I just have six examples here of the actual landscape character sites


This  one is Broad fertile  Lowland Valley this is another landscape character type not unique to Ireland   not unique to Cork of course.  There is quite a lot of that in County Cork .


The next one is Glaciated t or Cradle Valleys and I believe you are calling on Saturday morning Gouganbarra and this is one such example. You might remember that when you are there, it is quite a unique landscape.

  The next one is Hilly River and Reservoir Valley . Itís The Geara  (geara is an Irish word), itís a protected ,habitat under the European  habitat directives.  It consists of  flooded  woodland mainly ,, itís very unique and apparently it has been wooded since the last ice age 10,000 years agoitís quite an unique landscape that we have. 


Just another example of Ridged and Peak Upland, you will see quite a bit of that hopefully on Saturday as well as you go down towards west Cork towards Bantry.

 finally Rolling Patchwork Farmland,,   

This is the  kind of landscape I was born into and funnily enough one of the ironies of it is that if you look at that landscape carefully  (and it is to me rather attractive but of course I would think it is wouldnít I because I was reared in a similar place)  it has changed quite dramatically since  I was young.  I would like to think Iím not that old but that landscape would have looked quite different before. That field you see in the foreground, that large green field, would have been divided up with hedgerows mostly Hawthorn and Whitethorn hedgerows and the landscape would have looked quite different and the interesting thing about that is that in that landscape, the changes that have occurred did not require  permission or planning permission. The removal of hedgerows   have led to  the loss of natural habitat and all the other things that go with it.


It was one of possibly the biggest changes in the Irish landscape in the last 30 years certainly  would have been the hedgerow removal and I think it is fairly clear to see or not see depending on where you come from. 

Finally I will leave you with a quotation and I think Terry mentioned this at the start, I didnít know he was going to quote the same man and it not James Joyce. Though  today is Blooms Day but I couldnít find any Joyce quotes. , For me this summarises a lot of what landscape is about.


ĎLandscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rockí

Extract from Simon Schama, ďLandscape and MemoryĒ


 Anybody with an interest in this topic should read this book which I highly recommend.


                                                                                                Thank you very much.