By Eoin English
A key element of the largest flood defence scheme in the history of the state has been delayed by up to six months following a European Court ruling on the potential impact of such works on protected habitats.
Cork City Council confirmed this morning that it will now have to prepare a new environmental screening of its contentious €6m Morrison’s Island public realm and flood defence project and embark on a completely new planning process.
But it insisted there are no plans to change the design of the scheme which attracted some 1,500 submissions during public consultation earlier this year, and which is the subject of a judicial review.
The council has now abandoned its Part 8 planning approval for the scheme, signed off in April, and must now pursue a Part 10 planning process through An Bórd Pleanála.
It could be six months before a planning decision is made.
The council defended its original Part 8 process, signed off in April, and said it was in full compliance with all relevant laws at the time.
It said the European Court decision which came a month later could not have been foreseen.
And it said because the decision clarified an existing point of law, it is therefore retrospective.
“It imposes a new requirement upon Cork City Council that could not have been foreseen a month previous,” a spokesman said.
Campaign group, Save Cork City, which mounted the High Court challenge, welcomed the news which was outlined in the High Court earlier.
Spokesman John Hegarty urged the council to revisit its plans and to engage with the people of Cork to design a flood relief scheme that is fit for the 21st century.
“The Council has taken the right decision and should be praised for doing the right thing. Rather than spending time and money in court we believe the Council should sit down with us and other members of the community to agree a scheme that protects Cork and its heritage as we transition to a post-carbon economy,” he said.
“Save Cork City has put forward visionary alternatives which will protect Cork from rising water levels and enhance the relationship between the city and the river without the need for flood walls. We will be writing to the chief executive seeking an early meeting with her team to discuss the path forward.”