PLANNING permission is being sought by University College Cork (UCC) for a new €11 million Maritime Research and Testing Centre which will ultimately be home to up to 150 research scientists.
The new facility will replace one which was destroyed by a fire more than three years ago.
The former facility, which was an award-winning research centre, was housed at the naval base on Haulbowline island and was home to a team of 22 researchers.
The centre had been operating at Haulbowline for four years before it was gutted in early March 2008. In the meantime, its staff have been working in temporary accommodation provided for them on the island by the Naval Service.
UCC has decided to build the replacement on the 4.5 acre site in Ringaskiddy, adjacent to the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI).
The plan involves demolishing a warehouse on the site and building a new access road to connect to the Haulbowline Road, near the bridge to Rocky Island.
If planning permission is approved, the new complex will feature a single-storey testing unit and a three-storey research facility.
It will also have an 89-space car park and bicycle storage facilities.
Mark Poland, director of buildings and estates at UCC, said if planning permission was granted it is hoped to start construction early next year.
"It will take about 15 months to build and will be able to accommodate up to 150 researchers. Initially we intend to move in up to 80 researchers," Mr Poland said.
In addition, other coastal and marine researchers will work in the facility alongside sustainable energy research groups.
Locally-based Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said he welcomed the decision by UCC authorities to build a new centre next to the NMCI.
"This project has great potential to create a maritime energy cluster in the lower harbour area," Mr McGrath said.
By Sean O’Riordan
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, July 23, 2011