Group to seek judicial review over €20m flood relief scheme in Cork city

Blackpool project would destroy important habitat for otters, campaigner says

A flood in Blackpool, Cork city, in 2012. The proposed flood relief scheme would involve ‘putting a 350m stretch of the river Bride into a culvert near Orchard Court in Blackpool’. File photograph:  Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A flood in Blackpool, Cork city, in 2012. The proposed flood relief scheme would involve ‘putting a 350m stretch of the river Bride into a culvert near Orchard Court in Blackpool’. File photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

A newly formed campaign group is to seek a judicial review of a Government decision to allow a €20 million flood relief scheme proceed for one of the oldest parts of Cork city amid concerns that the project will destroy an important habitat for otters.

Campaigner Chris Moody said the proposed flood relief scheme from the Office of Public Works (OPW) for Blackpool, which is heavily reliant on hard flood-protection measures such as culverts, defence walls and embankments, will have a huge impact on wildlife such as otters and birds, including dippers, mallards and herons.

“The proposed OPW scheme involves putting a 350m stretch of the river Bride into a culvert near Orchard Court in Blackpool, effectively burying the last open stretch of the river in the village underground,” said Mr Moody, who lives in Blackpool and films otters in the Bride nearby.

“The European otter is a protected species which is in decline across Europe. Ireland is now one of the remaining strongholds for the species, and Cork Harbour, the river Lee and its tributaries such as the Bride is a key stronghold for otters.

“It is a healthy little ecosystem and a neglected jewel in Blackpool. This proposal from the OPW is a completely unnecessary and expensive destruction of a very busy and valuable wildlife habitat. We have no option but to oppose it,” he added.

Mr Moody acknowledged that there had been significant flooding in Blackpool in 2010, 2012 and 2013 as well as a number of smaller flooding events that impacted many homes and businesses which, as a result, can no longer get insurance.

“We believe these flooding events were caused by a combination of extensive river alterations in the years preceding flooding and badly located culvert trash screens. Trying to fix a problem caused by culverts by creating more culverts defies logic and ultimately could be the cause of future flooding.”

Judicial review

Mr Moody said a number of concerned residents had set up the Save Our Bride Otters campaign and they now plan to seek a judicial review in the High Court of the decision by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath to allow the OPW proceed with the Blackpool flood relief scheme.

“We believe the proposed scheme is unnecessarily expensive, that the culverting aspect is likely to be the cause of more flooding long term, rather than relieving potential flooding, and that the proposed works are too damaging to the habitat of the community of otters living in the Bride.”

He said there were numerous examples around the world where flooding has been prevented by slowing the flow of waters upstream using nature-based solutions at a fraction of the cost of concrete-based solutions, which instead of slowing the flow of water, tend to accelerate the flow.

“Save Our Bride Otters believe that the Bride is an ideal location for upstream storage using such nature-based solutions, which will be more effective than concrete-based solutions at a fraction of the cost to the State,” he said.

However, Cork North-Central Fine Gael TD Colm Burke welcomed the news that Mr McGrath had given formal approval for the OPW-designed scheme, which went out for public consultation in 2015 and received approval after a lengthy consultation process.

Mr Burke told the Irish Examiner earlier this month that businesses in the Blackpool area had suffered badly from flooding over the years and many can no longer get insurance while homeowners are also seeking security from flooding.

“There is a big residential population there too and Cork City Council is also building a number of residential units. All these people need certainty and security, free from the worry that every time there is heavy rain they won’t be arriving into their home or a business premises full of floodwater.”

The scheme had undergone a rigorous environmental assessment and the experts had agreed on this course of action. “You have to weigh up all of the factors but all the experts involved and all of their studies favour the proposed scheme and it’s time now to get on with this,” he said.