Cork could become an incredible city, a European gem, if developed properly. The city is loved because of its closeness to the water, to nature, and to history. The architecture and the historic buildings are complemented by the trees and the water. The fact that you have an island at the centre is also an added feature. The Government’s Project 2040 plans sound great and there are individuals and groups that have a vision for what the city could become.
Unfortunately, those in power have decided to treat this beautiful city with disdain and contempt. I had to laugh when I saw that Valerie O’Sullivan, director of the environment for the city council, has contributed an article on the ‘Greening of Cork’ to your Cork on the Rise supplement, which will be published on April 26. Over 500 trees were lost in Hurricane Ophelia. Cork City Council said they had no plans to replace any of them. The city council is also cutting down healthy trees and has no tree policy (Dublin City Council has). They allowed Griffith College to cut down an urban ‘forest’ behind St Patrick’s Hospital, despite it being protected. So, we are losing hundreds of trees a year, because of the council’s ignorance.
We then have the Office of Public Works’ plan for flood defences, the nail in the coffin for the development of Cork. Look at what the OPW have done in Mallow, Skibbereen, Bandon, Clonakilty: They have no regard for community or environment. They have used a mountain of concrete in Bandon. Valerie O’Sullivan says those who oppose the walls scheme are misinformed and that the OPW are experts. Arup engineers are also one of the city council’s experts for the flood defence system. If you visit their website, you will see that the walls-and-concrete approach goes against their own stated preferred methods for flood defence.
They then quote a price range of €800m to €1.3bn for a tidal barrier. If I got a quote to build a house and the range of the estimate was over 50%, I would question the builder. So, you have Arup, who have never completed a tidal barrier, claiming a cost with a €500m variance, while HR Wallingford, and other European experts, say the tidal barrier would cost €300m. The OPW also proposes to put dozens of bus-sized pumps around the city. If you think the main drainage scheme damaged city businesses, this will dwarf that. We have a city manager who was with the HSE. How is that relevant experience?
So Cork has the potential to be an amazing city, but, unfortunately, the powers-that-be will ensure that Cork’s future will be bleak unless the people force the Government to do what’s best. A first step would be local elections and the removal of councillors who voted for the OPW scheme.