Midleton floods: Cork County Council asked to explain why old bridge on river not removed

Sinn Féin TD says access structure is at ‘pinch point’ on the Owenacurra, which breached its banks last month

Cork County Council has been urged by a TD to explain why it failed to remove a bridge on the Owenacurra river in Midleton to reduce the risk of flooding when a new crossing was being built more than 15 years ago.

Cork East Sinn Féin deputy Pat Buckley said it was clear that an access bridge on the old Erin Foods site off the Mill Road in Midleton was at “a pinch point” on the Owenacurra, given its location just downstream of a bridge built as part of the Midleton Northern Relief Road in 2008.

Mr Buckley said it was “very clear” when flooding hit the town on October 18th last that water was swelling up under the new bridge “and that’s because it was meeting resistance from the older, lower bridge just downstream”.

He said the need to remove the access bridge was identified in the Midleton Northern Relief Road Flood Study Report in 2013 as a possible measure to reduce the risk of the Owenacurra breaching its banks, but that this was never done.


“There were a number of mitigation measures identified, like the removal of the old bridge and the building of a berm or bank on the Owenacurra downstream of the new bridge, but we will never know if they might have reduced the impact of Storm Babet because they were never done,” the TD said.

A photograph taken on October 18th from the newer bridge shows the access bridge submerged and flood waters spilling over the eastern bank of the Owenacurra on to the old Erin Foods site, from where it flowed down Mill Road into the town.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) confirmed to The Irish Times that Cork County Council had applied to it in March 2006, under section 50 of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945, for a licence to construct a new bridge over the Owenacurra to carry the relief road.

The council’s application included four additional sets of works – the “removal of a downstream bridge, modifications to the river channel cross section, provision of a compound channel and removal of debris and obstruction”. The application was approved by the OPW.

In 2008, the council applied for another section 50 licence for a revised bridge design, but this made no mention of removing the old bridge. This was refused because it failed to take account of OPW policy changes on hydrological requirements to cater for climate change.

Asked why it had failed to insure that the council had complied with the original 2006 section 50 licence and removed the old bridge as required when building the new one, the OPW said that “queries relating to the works carried out are a matter for Cork County Council to address”.

Asked about its failure to remove the old bridge, the council said its technical team had assessed the impact of Storm Babet and did not believe the old bridge had any impact on the Owenacurra bursting its banks last month.

The council said it was important to note that flood waters broke banks at several locations, both upstream and downstream of the two bridges, and its technical team’s initial assessment was that “flood waters were passing through (under and over) and also around the bridges in this area”.

“Therefore, based on best available information, it appears that this bridge [the old bridge] did not cause any significant blockage and, based on knowledge of the flood events, it could not be concluded that its removal would have prevented wider flooding,” the council said in a statement.

“The intention is that the bridge will be removed at the earliest appropriate time in the construction phase of the OPW’s Midleton Flood Relief Scheme and in a manner that can be demonstrated will not jeopardise or increase flows downstream.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times