Minister appeals to objectors to Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme to reconsider position

Minister appeals to objectors to Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme to reconsider position

The Bride River at Orchard Court, Blackpool, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins

Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) Patrick O’Donovan TD has appealed to objectors to the Blackpool Flood Relief scheme to reconsider their position.

Following opposition from a newly formed community group, Patrick O’Donovan TD has outlined details of the environmental assessment undertaken for the recently approved Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme.

In a statement, the Minister said the scheme had been developed by a multi-disciplinary team of local experts and will protect properties to the internationally recognised standard of protection from flooding when completed.

Save Our Bride Otters (SOBO) is seeking a judicial review on the decision to allow plans for the scheme to proceed. 

Minister O’Donovan said that since the inception of the scheme, the community of Blackpool has engaged extensively with the consultation process “ensuring that local knowledge and the needs of the community have fully informed the evolution of the project design over the last eight years”.

“Extensive consultation has taken place as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment, with Inland Fisheries Ireland, National Monuments and the National Parks and Wildlife Service,” he said.

The OPW noted opposition from those with concerns on the potential impact on otters and wildlife but said that mitigation measures have been provided for in the design of the scheme.

According to the OPW, many of the suggestions being posed by opponents have already been considered during the development and it is hoped that construction can commence on the scheme early next year.

Appeal to those challenging the scheme 

Minister O’Donovan said that he fully recognises everyone’s right to appeal planning decision but urged those who are opposed to the current plans to reconsider their stance.

“I appeal to those considering challenging the scheme’s approval, to first consider the homeowners and businesses of this area, who have been subjected to the nightmare of flooding, who remain at risk today, and who now finally see a solution which can bring this nightmare to an end.”

He said that almost 300 properties and businesses will benefit from the Scheme, including many traders “whose livelihoods are at stake” as many cannot get insurance today due to the previous flooding in Blackpool.

Save Our Bride Otters

Earlier this week, SOBO urged the OPW to consider Ireland’s declaration of a biodiversity emergency.

“The OPW’s plan to bury a 350m stretch of the River Bride in Blackpool under a concrete culvert, along with other concrete channelling and screening further upstream, is surely in direct conflict with our declaration of a biodiversity emergency."

The group believes that using upstream storage of water would be a highly effective and relatively cheap form of flood prevention, which is based on preserving and enhancing biodiversity.

In a statement earlier this week, John MacCarthy, an engineer who is working with the campaign, said that the culvert extension proposal would cause a significant negative impact on otters and otter habitats.

“The upstream catchment storage would introduce additional biodiversity benefits to the Bride catchment as well as protecting existing urban blue and green space crucial for otter breeding,” he said.

So far, the group have raised over €10,480 through an online fundraiser to help cover the costs of the initial phase of the judicial review.

Mr O’Donovan concluded by stating: 

“While the development of a scheme is the main objective of the process, I am glad to say that any scheme is only advanced with a full assessment of the environmental impacts of the measures to be implemented. 

"I am delighted that we now have a scheme to protect the community in Blackpool," he added.

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