Morrison's Island flood defences go on display

City Hall has unveiled its plans to reinvent Morrison's Island with a flood defence and public realm upgrade. Kevin O'Neill looks at what is in store for the area.
Morrison's Island flood defences go on display
Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island

CORK City Council today unveiled plans for the €6m redevelopment of Morrison’s Island.

The local authority is to undertake a wide-ranging public realm-and-flood defence project in the area, enhancing pedestrian and cycling facilities, and creating three public plazas along the riverside.

Construction is expected to start in September, 2018, to be completed a year later, eliminating 80% of the flood threat, ahead of the winter of 2019 and 2020.

Morrison’s Island and Father Mathew Quay are frequently flooded. They are among the lowest lying areas in the city.

City officials were keen to press ahead with flood-protection for the area, uncoupling it from the rest of the OPW-led Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme to expedite the protection.

It will be completed in conjunction with a public-realm improvement designed to reinvigorate the south-facing quay area, which is primarily used for parking.

Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island
Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island

David Joyce, the director of environmental services at Cork City Council, said that the public-realm elements of the project have been on the local authority’s radar for some time.

The public-realm enhancement and flood-defence works have been combined to minimise the impact on residents and businesses.

Fluvial — or river — flooding causes less damage than tidal flooding, but is far more common in the city.

The scheme will eliminate 70% to 80% of the tidal flooding in the area.

“By doing the Morrison’s Island area, we will protect a lot of the city centre area from flooding,” Mr Joyce said. “It won’t 100% protect the city, until the rest of the work is done, as there are a number of other, low-lying areas, but it will solve the vast, vast majority of problems.”

Plans include the development of a three-metre-wide, riverside promenade and the widening and enhancement of access to Trinity footbridge. Three public plazas will be created along the quayside, including seating and distinct wooden crates, referencing the shipping heritage of the area. New footpaths, public lighting, and cycling facilities will be added.

A one-way system will be introduced. It will permit access from South Mall and exit at Parliament Bridge, enhancing the area for all road-users, say city officials.

Floods at Morrison's Island in 2012. Pic: larry Cummins
Floods at Morrison's Island in 2012. Pic: larry Cummins

While some parking will be removed, an element of this will be retained, though cars will no longer park perpendicular to the riverside, with spaces running parallel, instead.

From a flood-defence perspective, quay walls will be raised by no more than 600mm, with a railing on top. However, to minimise the impact on river views, the road surface will also be raised, reducing the number of spaces, in favour of increased pedestrian and cycle space.

The plans could transform the area, according to Mr Joyce.

Currently, Father Mathew Quay and Morrison’s Quay are home to a large number of parking spaces, as well as a number of unused and, in some cases, derelict, buildings. There is limited public space for footpaths, despite the large volume of footfall in the area, much of which is driven by the busy Cork College of Commerce.

Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island
Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island

In contrast, George’s Quay, directly opposite, is home to a number of busy cafés, shops, and businesses.

Mr Joyce said there is potential to transform Morrison’s Quay, too. “There are under-utilised and derelict structures there, but there is massive potential,” he said.

“The quays are south-facing, they are quite wide, and they are home to a large amount of pedestrian traffic. We are hopeful that, by re-orientating the area towards pedestrians and cyclists, we can rejuvenate the entire quayside and enhance it, making it somewhere people want to be.” Efforts have been made to retain and restore the heritage of the area.

Among the new features are shipping crates, repurposed for seating, in reference to the area’s maritime heritage. These will be labelled with the name of goods that would have been loaded and unloaded from the area in previous years.

The quay wall will remain largely untouched, with parts of it to be exposed to show how it has changed over the years, while railings and bollards will mimic the traditional quayside structures.

A viewing point will also be added to the public seating area at the end of the South Mall. Previously, a pier was in situ. While this won’t be recreated fully, a similar viewing platform will be added, while new, timber slats will also be put in place, creating a space that could be used for markets, music, and festivals, Mr Joyce added.

The plans are on display at City Hall from today. They include photo montages and a 3D video and, in a first for the city, a full-scale prototype of the works.

They have constructed a section of the quayside outside City Hall. The 7x4m structure will be placed directly onto the quayside after the public consultation, if plans are approved.

It includes railings, cobbles, and a section of footpath.

Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island
Flood Defence Public Realm upgrade for Morrison's Island

“The reason we have done this is that we are keen to encourage as much public interaction as possible,” Mr Joyce said. “We have 3D video renders, photo montages, the works, but you can never fully replicate the design through these methods.”

The public consultation period will run for six weeks and will be followed by a two-week window for written submissions, closing on April 9. Plans are also due to be available on, where submissions will also be accepted.

If approved, the plans will go out for tender immediately, with a contractor on site in September and the project finished twelve months later.

It will cost €5-6 million.

City Hall has unveiled its plans to reinvent Morrison’s Island with a €6m
flood-defence and public-realm upgrade. Kevin O’Neill looks at what is in store for the area

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