Morrison’s Island flood defence project faces latest legal challenge in October

As differences of opinion continue to be fought over how various areas of Cork city can be protected from severe flooding, Amy Nolan takes a look at the current status of the city’s main schemes and what their implementation would mean for the city in their overall impact
Morrison’s Island flood defence project faces latest legal challenge in October

Flooding at Morrisons Island in Cork City in 2020. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IN THE city centre, the Morrison’s Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project, pursued as a separate project to the wider Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS), faces its latest legal challenge this autumn.

The project is a Cork City Council-led public realm scheme with flood defence elements part funded by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The OPW say the scheme provides for “a complete renewal of the public space from Parnell Bridge along to Parliament Bridge, including enhanced flood protection measures”.

Approved by city councillors in 2018, the scheme was subsequently approved by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in June 2020.

In August 2020, the Save Cork City (SCC) Community Association Ltd applied for, and was granted, leave to take a Judicial Review of the ABP decision to approve the project.

The Judicial Review hearing took place in July 2021 and the High Court upheld the decision of ABP to grant the planning permission for the proposed development and refused a stay on the undertaking of any works pursuant to the grant of the planning permission for the proposed development and the High Court also subsequently refused a request for leave to appeal.

Earlier this year, an application was made directly to the Supreme Court and leave to appeal was granted in May 2022.

A spokesperson for the OPW said the appeal “focuses primarily on the jurisdiction of An Bord Pleanála to conduct an EIA screening in an application made under s.177AE of the 2000 Act”.

“It is expected that the Supreme Court appeal will be processed over the coming months.

“In the interim, work is advancing on the development of the detailed design documents for the scheme, pre-qualification of potential future contractors and other necessary elements.

“It is expected that the scheme, when delivered, will be transformative in its impact and support additional private sector investment as well as new opportunities for public enjoyment of the overall area.

“While the tender documentation for the procurement of a civil works contractor is being finalised, no decision on the appointment of a contractor to commence the works will be taken pending the outcome of the legal challenges,” the spokesperson continued.


Speaking to The Echo, Independent councillor Mick Finn expressed his frustration over the delays the scheme has faced.

“Cork city remains seriously exposed to flooding and in my first few months as a councillor in 2009, the city centre was destroyed by the most serious flooding in generations and we called for action.

“Nothing has happened since and I have been fully supportive of the Morrison’s Island plan which has been stalled in the courts and elsewhere.

“This protection and enhancement plan would defend the city centre at its lowest lying points and also improve the public realm.

“Some ‘experts’ complain about crumbling quays and lack of riverside amenity yet oppose the Morrison’s Island plan that will remedy both of those issues,” he said.

“While I do have some issues with some elements of the larger Lower Lee project, repair and reappointing of the quay walls is an intrinsic part of it and is the only way our quays will be done… other funding options are not there.

“It is extremely frustrating to have seen nothing happen in 13 years... hopefully we won’t pay for it as a city,” Mr Finn added.

In a 22-page letter to city councillors in late 2020, SCC detailed their concerns around the LLFRS and the Morrison’s Island project.

On the Morrison’s Island project, the group claim the scheme will not protect the city from flooding.

“Morrison’s Island works cannot provide the protection needed in the historic centre because time and again it has been proved that water rises from the ground within 15 minutes of the rats surfacing in a tidal surge flood event and this is the case in the most recent flood event.

“It is misleading to say it can and it is misleading to not acknowledge the alteration to ground water and building foundations the proposals would cause,” they said.

Green Party councillor Dan Boyle said he agrees that the scheme is the “wrong approach” in protecting the city centre from the regular flooding which it suffers.

“Morrison’s Island is meant to be part of the larger flood relief scheme that’s being promoted by the OPW. I believe it’s the wrong approach. I believe it’s over-engineered.

“I believe it looks at flooding in the wrong context. For instance, in the city centre a lot of the problem we have with flooding is overflow through the storm water system rather than over the quay walls so the pumping systems that they want to put in place I think is an over-elaborate approach.

“I think we should take a more whole river approach. We need a flooding strategy that looks at the river almost in its entirety.

“We’re putting all our eggs into an engineering basket and a hard engineering basket which is a negative reaction to natural flood management which is more successful elsewhere and I’m still at a loss to know why we want to go for the most costly way of dealing with a problem which we’ve only contributed to with poor planning in the past,” he said.

Cork City Council says 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 Echo has learned that the Supreme Court has set a date of Thursday, October 20, to hear the appeal against the 2021 High Court decision which upheld the 2020 ABP planning approval for the Morrison’s Island scheme.

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