Cork city flood plan ‘strikes balance’ says design experts

Design experts behind the €6m revamp of Cork’s Morrison’s Island, which integrates flood defences with public realm upgrades, believe it “strikes the right balance” between protecting the area’s heritage and reducing flood risk.

The €6m Morrison's Island project. Irish Examiner Graphics

Up to 110 parking spaces will be removed from an almost 600-metre stretch of south-facing quayside, between Parliament and Parnell Bridges, they confirmed.

However, as the plans were unveiled for public consultation, the experts said the delivery of new infrastructure, including a river-side promenade, a viewing platform over the River Lee, three new public plazas, and a mini-boardwalk, has the potential to kickstart regeneration of the historic area.

The scheme will see the delivery, in one of the city’s most tidal-flood prone areas, of the first flood defences proposed as part of the OPW’s €140m Cork flood defence plan.

It emerged yesterday that between 80 to 90 of the estimated 140-riverside parking spaces along Fr Mathew and Morrison’s Quays will be removed to provide a 3m-wide granite promenade, which will be shared by pedestrians and cyclists.

About 33 parking spaces, parallel to the river, will be retained.

A knee-high wall made from silver limestone aggregate will be installed over strengthened quay walls. Granite parapets will be installed at 3m intervals, with railings between them. The ground level will be raised by up to two feet to minimise the visual impact of the flood defences. A cobbled carriageway will carry one-way traffic, east to west along the quays.

Trinity footbridge will be enhanced, with a plaza on Morrison’s Island and a mini-boardwalk on Union Quay and new plazas will be built at Parnell Bridge and outside Holy Trinity Church.

Opponents, including Mad About Cork and Save Cork City, described the design as a “missed opportunity”. They also questioned the decision to allow cars to use the area and the lack of trees and shrubbery.

However, landscape architect, Andrew Hayley, of The Paul Hogarth Company, said the design sought to, within its budget, rebalance the use of the area away from car parking towards creating more space for people.

He said the design seeks to take advantage of the area’s south-facing aspect and use panels, plaques, artwork and street furniture to tell the history and story of the area.

While Save Cork City has “done the city a service” through the campaigning, he said the concepts which emerged from their design competition for the area were not constrained by budgets or practicalities.

Arup engineer Ken Leahy said he believes those involved in preparing the Morrison’s Island scheme have done all they can to engage with and consult with the public and that will continue over the next eight weeks of public consultation.

Both insisted that they are open to considering good suggestions on design elements which may emerge during that process.

Laurence Owens, the chief executive of the Cork Business Association, said that while he had concerns about the loss of parking, the design “will open up what is a very dead street”.

“It turns the city towards the river, it could encourage more footfall and more business,” he said.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy said his initial impression of the scheme is very positive and he encouraged business to engage in the consultation.

The plans are on display in City Hall for six weeks, with submissions open for a further two weeks, with a deadline of April 9. Two public sessions take place on February 26 and March 9.

Online submissions can be made at consult.corkcity.ie/browse.

The feedback will inform a report to council, and pending a council vote, it is hoped work will start by autumn, and take a year to complete.

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