Cork councillors approve controversial flood protection plan

Project at Morrison’s Island criticised over loss of parking spaces and public access

A view of the river Lee in Cork. The €6m project includes plans by the OPW to provide flood defences  as part of its €140 million Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme. Photograph: iStock

A view of the river Lee in Cork. The €6m project includes plans by the OPW to provide flood defences as part of its €140 million Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme. Photograph: iStock

 

A €6 million plan to redevelop part of Cork city which includes controversial flood protection proposals has been approved by councillors.

Cork City Council on Tuesday night voted by 22 to 6 to approve the project for Morrison’s Island off the South Mall in the city centre, which includes plans by the OPW to provide flood defences in the area as part of its €140 million Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme.

The vote followed a 90-minute debate by councillors. The decision was welcomed by Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, who said the plan would deliver a high-quality public space for a long-neglected part of the city.

The plan would also provide much-needed flood protection for Morrison’s Island, which was the starting point for much of the tidal flooding that affects the city centre and which has caused millions of euros worth of damage in recent years, he said.

Details of the plan were unveiled in February when the then Cork City Council director of the environment David Joyce explained Morrison’s Island was critical to any flood protection scheme.

When tidal flooding on the south channel of the river Lee 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 Street, Cook Street and Marlboro Street onto Oliver Plunkett Street, he said.

Road levels

Ken Leahy of Arup explained the flood protection measures along the 550m stretch of quays from Parliament Bridge to Parnell Bridge required raising road levels by 600mm and reshaping the camber of the road so it runs from the river towards the buildings.

The flood defences would consist of raising quay walls by 300-600mm, composed of concrete with granite coping and bollards, before erecting 1.2m of steel cabling which would allow pedestrians and cyclists using a 3m 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, with the number of car parking spaces on Morrison’s Quay and Fr Mathew Quay being cut from 148 to 33, as the plan also seeks to attract more pedestrians and cyclists into the area.

The loss of 115 parking spaces was strongly criticised by the Cork Business Association (CBA), with chief executive Lawrence Owens saying it represented “the single greatest elimination of parking spaces in the history of Cork city centre”.

Loss of customers

Mr Owens said the CBA had estimated that these 115 parking spaces accommodated 2,500 to 3,000 turnovers a week and almost 150,000 turnovers a year, which was a serious loss of customers to a city still recovering from a recession, a crippling bus strike and two major weather events.

Save Cork City group, who are opposed to the OPW flood relief scheme, criticised the plan. They have organised an international design competition to come up with alternative plans for the Morrison’s Island area.

Architect Seán Antóin Ó Muirí of the Save Cork City group said the OPW plan was overly reliant on the building of 5km of concrete walls, which would reduce public access to both the north and south channels of the River Lee.