The OPW has moved to reassure the people of Cork that access to the River Lee will not be lost as a result of a €140 million flood relief scheme amid concerns from campaigners that protective walls are going to close off access to the river.
According to the Save Cork City group, the Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme prepared by the OPW will turn "Cork city centre into one large storm drain" as walls are built to replace railings on quays along both the north and south channel s of the River Lee.
Among the business people supporting the Save Cork City campaign is publican Robert Crowley of Callanan's Bar on George's Quay who recorded a video message for the group on their webpage in which he questioned the necessity for building quay walls as proposed in the OPW plan.
“Our family has been in business here since the 1930s when my grandparents took over the bar and in all that time we have never been flooded and, to the best of my knowledge, most of George’s Quay and Sullivan’s Quay hasn’t been either in that time,” he said.
“So we are wondering now why the OPW are presenting us with this plan that looks set to ruin a lot of the historic quay walls and railings - there doesn’t seem to be an alternative presented to the people and there doesn’t appear to be a choice in the matter.”
Shopkeeper, Michael Creedon of Bradleys on the North Main Street is similarly sceptical of the need for major flood barriers to be built in the city centre, suggesting that much flooding in the city centre is caused by water coming up shores not by the Lee overflowing its banks.
"The worst flooding is always Oliver Plunkett St - how far from the river is that? Most of the water that causes flooding in Oliver Plunkett comes up the shores, not over the quays so I would have serious doubts that the solution to this is building all these high walls along the quays."
But Ezra MacMananmon of the OPW strongly disputes the Save Cork City analysis of the OPW plan and points out that under the scheme, the amount of riverside protected by railings, as opposed to quay walls, will be reduced by just 5pc - from 80pc to 75pc.
And Mr MacManamon pointed out that the average quay wall height under the plan will be 1.2 metres high with high quality stainless steel railing as will happen on George's Quay, Union Quay and Morrison's Island whereas as on Sullivan's Quay the wall will be just 0.6 metres with a railing on top.
He said that the OPW will be raising road levels on the dry side of the new walls and in places such as Grenville Place and Bachelors this will average 200 mms to 250mms while the road level at Morrison's Island and Fr Matthew Quay will be raised by 400 mms to 600mms on average.
“We are generally going to be placing railing with railings but in some places we are going to have is a combination of low wall and railing - the maximum height of the wall is going to be 1.2 metres so you are going to be able to see through the railing and still see the river,” he said.
“If you have a stone wall there are present that needs upgrade or replacing, the new wall we will be putting in will look like a stone wall - it will have a reinforced concrete core and the existing stone will be salvaged to dress it and give the appearance of a stone wall.
"If we have a situation where we need to put in a wall where there is no wall, the intention is that it's going to be a high quality textured concrete wall but we're open to discussion and if people want us to dress it in stone like we have other places such as Mallow and Fermoy, we can do that."