Cork City Council faces big legal bills over flood planning

An artist’s impression of the flood defence proposed for Morrison’s Island, Cork.

Cork City Council is facing a hefty legal bill after the High Court granted an order quashing the planning for the controversial Morrison’s Island public realm and flood defence project.

The agreement between campaigners Save Cork City (SCC) and the council was reached on the basis that the council failed to comply with its obligations under the EU Habitats Directive 1992 in relation to its Part 8 planning for the €6m scheme in May, which proposes to integrate flood defences into a significant public realm upgrade along the historic city quay.

The council was also ordered to pay SCC’s legal costs, which could run to tens of thousands of euro. The group was represented by FP Logue Solicitors and barristers Jerry Healy SC and John Kenny BL.

The council said its agreement to the High Court order follows a European Court of Justice ruling on a windfarm case which overturned established practice in Ireland and Europe in relation to environmental screening on similar projects.

It said that ruling made it necessary for the council to now undertake a new environmental screening of the Morrison’s Island project.

It again insisted that when Part 8 was voted on in May, it was in full compliance with all existing and established processes and procedures, and in line with the established interpretation of the law at the centre of the EU court ruling which came a month later.

This new screening has not been undertaken due to a flaw or error in either the Part 8 documentation or the processes undertaken which at the time followed the established processes of many years,” said the council.

However, SCC, which sought a judicial review of the Part 8 based on grounds including those relating to the Habitats Directive 1992, said the council did not undertake legally compliant screening before approving the Part 8.

SCC’s John Hegarty said the council has argued in recent days that the law changed after its Part 8 vote.

“The reality is that the law was not changed and is longstanding,” he said. “This is a project that is opposed by the people of Cork city who want a flood relief scheme that respects the city’s world-class heritage, environment and future potential.

People want flood protection that protects the city economically and socially and that will facilitate long term sustainable growth for the historic city and the docklands to the east.

“The city executive seem determined to press ahead with a scheme that has been reasonably rejected by the people of Cork and now also by the courts.”

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