Business group backs OPW flood plan but not ‘at any cost’

Business group backs OPW flood plan but not ‘at any cost’
Cork Business Association CEO Lawrence Owens.Pic: David Keane.

THE Cork Business Association has said Cork's heritage and visual amenities are considered in their submission to the Office of Public Works (OPW) on the city's proposed flood relief scheme.

CBA and Cork Chamber each submitted separate documents to the OPW before Friday's deadline which support the plans.

The proposed flood relief scheme by the OPW, which is set to cost over €140m and could take seven years to complete, has met with criticism from some architects, businesses and residents about the efficacy of the plans, height of the walls and the extent of construction.

However, CBA CEO Lawrence Owens said that while they were generally in favour of the plans, their submission was extremely challenging to the OPW in terms of preserving heritage and visual amenities.

“We made it quite clear that even though we are coming at it from the commercial businesses perspective and, yes we want the flood defence system that works and protects businesses, we were conscious of having the right balance and keeping the visual amenity and that the design and construct must be in keeping with the aesthetics of the city,” he said.

“We're delighted to see that a lot of material will be reused, for instance all the quay walls will be reinstated with the original wall and the design, whilst still not 100%, looks, to us, quite reasonable,” he added.

Mr Owens said that businesses wanted flood defences, but not at any cost.

“This is being mooted out as if, 'sure look this is just the businesses and they'll put out sandbags if they can get away with it to protect their premises' but we are very much aware that the river is an integral part of the city and the visual impact and mood that it serves for the city is maintained. That is inherent and went through our entire submission,” he said.

Mr Owens added that Cork now needs to be realistic in order to provide flood defences that safeguard businesses and residents in the future.

However, the Save Cork City group has vowed to keep fighting proposed flood walls for the city.

Seán Antóin Ó Muirí of the group said the group's engineering experts have said the proposed plans will not work.

“We’ve spent the last few weeks meeting people for our ‘Humans of Cork’ campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Almost universally, the more people hear about the wall proposal, the more they turn against it. We’ve had businesses say to us that they are worried about the effect of massive construction on the city centre,” he said.

“The OPW are planning to build extensive walls, blocking off the river at street level. They want to pump concrete grout under pressure behind the existing quay walls below street level. And they are hoping that putting giant pumping chambers all over the city - which is the equivalent of burying a fleet of double-decker buses - will keep the marsh on which the city is built under control.” he added.

In relation to fears over the height of flood defence walls an OPW spokesperson said the defence wall along the quays when viewed from the land side in the city centre would not exceed 1200 mm, the recommended guarding height for a location of this nature.

They added calls from the Save Cork City group to include more glass walls were taken into consideration but cost – glass costs €2,000 per metre - and difficulty of maintenance were issues.

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