€6 million plan designed to regenerate Morrison’s Island in Cork

Plan will involve raising road levels and quay walls with open steel cabling barriers

A new € 6 million plan to develop the public realm at Morrison's Island in Cork city centre will not only provide protection against city centre flooding but will also help regenerate the area, according to a senior executive with Cork City Council.

Cork City Council Director of Environment, David Joyce explained that the Morrison's Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project commissioned by Cork City Council and the OPW is designed to help regenerate the area between the South Mall and the South Channel of the Lee but also prevent flooding of the city centre.

Mr Joyce told a media briefing on the plan that tidal flood events on the River Lee in Cork city are more frequent but have less impact than fluvial or river flooding. This is less frequent but more severe and the South Channel of the Lee at Morrison’s Island is particularly susceptible to tidal flooding.

Morrison's Island is a critical part of any flood protection scheme for Cork as when tidal flooding overspills on to Morrison's Quay and Fr Mathew Quay, it flows down Fr Mathew Street and on to the South Mall and across Princes, Cook and Marlboro Streets on to Oliver Plunkett Street.

Therefore protecting Morrison's Island from flooding would have a significant impact on reducing flooding in Cork city centre, Mr Joyce said at the launch of the plan drawn up consulting engineers, Arup and landscape architects, the Paul Hogarth Company for Cork City Council and the OPW.

Flood protection

Ken Leahy of Arup explained the flood protection measures, along the 550 metre stretch of quays from Parliament Bridge past Trinity Bridge down to Parnell Bridge, would involve raising road levels by 600 millimetres and reshaping the camber of the road so it runs from the river towards the buildings.

The actual flood defences would consist of raising quay walls by 300-600 millimetres, composed of concrete with granite coping and bollards, before erecting 1.2 metres of steel cabling which would allow pedestrians and cyclists using a three metre wide promenade to have an excellent view of the river.

Mr Leahy said the plan would also involve reducing the amount of cars using the area. The number of car parking spaces on Morrison’s Quay and Fr Mathew Quay will be cut from 148 to 33 - a loss of 115 parking spaces - as the plan seeks to attract more pedestrians and cyclists into the area.

He said the plan would also involve improving access to the pedestrian Trinity Bridge by opening out or flaring the ends on both sides of the river. Demolishing the bridge and rebuilding it would be financially prohibitive as the existing structure carries a high voltage cable supplying the city centre.

Landscape architect, Andrew Haley of the Paul Hogarth Company paid tribute to the Save Cork City group for stimulating a debate about how Cork is to capitalise on its historic quays and some interesting ideas had come from an international design competition organised by the group.


However Mr Haley said there was a difference between coming up with a design for an international competition and a design for actual construction. This had to be built with a budget which was the brief that he and his company were given by Cork City Council and the OPW.

He acknowledged the award winning design by architects, Henry Harker and Francis Keane in the Save Cork City competition had utilised a setback flood protection barrier located at the edge of the footpath to create a floodable promenade by the river as exists in Paris.

But setting the flood defence back off the water’s edge and back at the footpath relies on very high usage of the promenade area. He questioned whether there was demand for such a space at the river’s edge in Cork unlike in Paris which has much greater resident and tourist populations.

Mr Leahy pointed out the set back barrier proposed by Mr Harker and Mr Keane was 2.7 metres high which would protect against a 1 in 10-year flood event while the OPW plan envisaged a 3.5 metre high barrier t to protect against a 1 in 200-year flood and cater for climate change rises in sea levels.

Mr Leahy said that following a consultation process over the next six weeks, he hoped the project would go for planning in May and if approved, the successful tender could start construction in the autumn with the work likely to take 12 months to complete.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times