CORK City Council has announced that work on the construction of long-planned flood defences and public realm improvements to Morrison's Island will begin in early 2021.
The designs are now being finalised and a works contractor is expected to be onsite early next year. The project has been the subject of much public debate.
A statement from Cork City Council this morning said: "The Morrison’s Island project represents an outstanding opportunity to bring about comprehensive regeneration of this historic area following An Bord Pleanála’s recent granting of approval for extensive public realm improvements and flood defence works.
"The project will be delivered along Morrison’s Quay and Fr. Matthew Quay between Parliament Bridge and Parnell Bridge. Currently, these quays are ineffective public spaces, primarily used for car parking, and are underutilised as a riverside amenity. As the lowest lying quays in the city centre, they are the source of regular tidal flooding that has a major impact on business and properties within the centre island.
"The scheme aims to capitalise on the quay’s south facing aspect, by creating a high-quality public realm and opening up the views of the River Lee. The improved public spaces and safer and more vibrant environment will also make the area more attractive for further investment and development.
"The upgraded streetscape will incorporate a wide riverside promenade, a much-improved setting for the impressive Holy Trinity Church, a plaza area at the eastern end of the South Mall and a redesigned Trinity Bridge crossing to Union Quay. As part of the project, changes will also be made to traffic movements, car parking will be reduced, and additional bicycle parking will be provided.
"In addition to the public realm investment, other critical aspects of the project are the construction of flood defences, changes to the surface water drainage system and remedial works to the existing quay walls. These quays are frequently inundated by tidal flooding, and the defence works will bring much needed reassurance to City Centre businesses. In addition, the historic cut limestone quay walls will be refurbished to ensure their long-term integrity by repairing, cleaning and re-pointing in-situ.
"The flood defence measures are urgently needed to alleviate tidal flooding around Morrison’s Island and the South Mall and adjoining streets which has frequently caused extensive damage to people’s businesses and properties in that area of the city centre.
"The project will be co-funded by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is committed to investing in flood defence works and the refurbishment of the quays."
In An Bord Pleanála Inspector’s Report, the following conclusion regarding the benefits of the scheme was reached: “The benefits of the scheme are considered to be significant in terms of reducing the severity and hardship experienced by residents and businesses as a result of tidal flooding in the area.
"It will also provide for necessary remedial works to the architecturally significant quay walls and provide for a much-improved public realm, which is likely to benefit the recreational and commercial amenities of the waterside area. I am satisfied that the proposed development is justified and supported by the policy framework for the area, particularly the policies and objectives of the Cork City Development Plan.”
The Inspector’s report also stated that the “...the quaysides are dominated by tarmac-surfaced car parking with poor quality walls and railings along the water’s edge and low-quality ground floor uses with a considerable degree of vacancy and dereliction” and the project “Will facilitate regeneration of area, better use of riverside amenity, more sustainable transport patterns and greater certainty regarding flood risk. The impact on social infrastructure would therefore be positive.”
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief, Mr Patrick O’Donovan said:“Projects such as Morrison’s Island show the OPW’s and the Government’s commitment to providing local authorities with the necessary funding to undertake very important local flood relief works. The OPW funding for the Morrison’s Island project forms part of the overall allocation of almost €1 billion included in the National Development Plan 2018 -2027 to underpin the Government’s 10-year strategy of major investment in flood relief works. I very much welcome the progression of this project which, when completed, will provide flood protection to a significant area of Cork city centre."
Lord Mayor of Cork, Joe Kavanagh said:"I very much welcome the progression of this project which is transformational for the area and will provide a much-needed new public space in the city centre. It will be a source of significant relief to residents and business on the city island who little over a decade ago, experienced €130 million of flood damage and every year since have lived in the very real fear of this happening once more. For business, who are experiencing challenges like never before, a similar flooding event in the coming months or years is unimaginable.
“I think that the decision of An Bord Pleanála is a strong vindication of the rationale in bringing forward this public realm project and is also an endorsement of the design and quality of the scheme. This is a transformational scheme for the city centre and for riverside amenity and I believe it will be warmly welcomed by Cork people and visitors alike.”
Ann Doherty, Chief Executive of Cork City Council said:“The public realm improvements planned for Morrisons Island will give the area a badly needed facelift and encourage both locals and tourists to visit and enjoy the new public spaces and amenities. The flood defence measures are currently needed to alleviate tidal flooding around Morrisons Island, South Mall and adjoining streets, which has frequently caused extensive damage to people’s businesses and properties in that area of the city centre. We are currently finalizing the detailed design and would hope to have a contractor starting on site in early 2021.” Gerry O’Beirne, Director of Services, Infrastructure Development, stated previously:
"An Bord Pleanála’s decision enables the fulfilment of a long standing objective for the City. The project will deliver a high-quality public space at this important waterside location as well as much needed flood protection works. Cork City Council will now proceed to finalise the detailed design and tender documents with a view to awarding the works contract in the coming months."
Local business groupings have also welcomed the decision. Lawrence Owens, C.E.O. of Cork Business Association, commented: ''The Cork Business Association welcomes the decision by An Bord Pleanála’s which will finally enable the progression of the Morrison's Island project. The impact of this scheme, when completed, will be transformative for the city adding both to the visual amenity and helping to unlock the commercial potential of the area.
"It will deliver first and foremost critically needed flood protection which the CBA has been long campaigning for. It will also encompass a significant Public Realm upgrade and see works commence on the refurbishment of our historic quay walls. The risk of flooding is forever on the mind of property owners in Cork city and in this extremely challenging time for businesses to have the reassurance that their premises and livelihoods will be protected from flooding is a highly positive and welcome development.''