City Hall director says tidal barrier for Cork is simply not viable: 'You are pouring concrete into the harbour'

City Hall director says tidal barrier for Cork is simply not viable: 'You are pouring concrete into the harbour'
A computer-generated image of what a tidal barrier in Cork Harbour would look like. It was commissioned by Save Cork City who are opposed to the flood defence proposal from the Office of Public Works and Cork city Council. Robert McNamara story

A TIDAL barrier for Cork will cost billions to service and is simply not viable, City Hall’s head of planning has said.

Cork City Council director of strategic and economic development Fearghal Reidy believes protecting over 2,000 properties that cannot get flood insurance through the Office of Public Works (OPW) Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS) should be prioritised.

He has urged the public to look at the published plans online and make up their own minds ahead of likely Ministerial approval for the project in 2020.

The Save Cork City group is opposed to the river wall defences design of the €200m scheme and has long advocated for a tidal barrier to address the city’s flood problems.

The group has said the barrier will protect up to 16,000 properties including future homes built on the docklands over the next two decades.

However, Mr Reidy believes the OPW scheme will provide more sustainable protection to the city centre.

“In the future, we need to be a resilient city. We have to be able to say that Cork can face extreme weather events, that’s number one.

“Number two, there are 2,100 properties affected by flooding when it happens. They continue to be affected because they can’t get insurance and then we can’t protect them, it’s a terrible anomaly.

“An awful lot of work has gone into the design of the flood protection scheme and an awful lot of heritage checking has gone into it. 

"What I would say to people is have a look at the drawings and schemes that are on the LLFRS website and make their own informed opinion on it but be aware as well that it is a matter of protecting properties and businesses in the city that, right now, just cannot be insured. 

"There is an amenity, a resilience and a business benefit to it and it’s designed to match the heritage of the city.

“The barrier down the river is not cost-effective, it would come into billions of Euro and it would have a significant environmental impact. You are pouring concrete into the harbour, that’s effectively what it is. So, on a cost-benefit basis, it doesn’t stack up at all,” he added.

The first phase of flood defences for Cork is slated for Morrison’s Island is being undertaken by Cork City Council - a planning decision is currently with An Bord Pleanála - before the OPW take over to provide defences which it says will cover 15km of the River Lee from west of Ballincollig to the eastern tip of the Cork City island and would protect over 900 homes and 1,200 businesses.

It will be completed on a phased basis and include sections of demountable barriers.

Chair of Cork City Council’s economic development and planning strategic policy committee Seán Martin said Morrison’s Island must be done no matter what the discourse is on other flood solutions.

“We need to get Morrison’s Island in place. I am open to other concepts going forward but the reality is that we are not going to get funding for the barrier down the river and it’s not going to happen within the next 10-15 years. 

"I’m all for planting trees at Ballingeary or Inchigeela, that’s fine. Remedial works like that, I don’t have a problem with but right now, the city centre needs Morrison’s Island to be done and then we can look at other things.” 

The LLFRS scheme is close to being finalised, after engineers had redesigned elements, and will be on Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s desk in the first quarter of next year so he can approve them and release funding.

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