Human chain protest to highlight fears over Cork city’s quay flood defences

Proposed flood defences along Cork's quay walls at Grenville Place.

Campaigners opposed to the design of Cork city’s massive flood defence scheme are planning a human chain protest to highlight their fears.

The Save Cork City group say it expects up to 200 people to link arms on Sullivan’s Quay and at Fitzgerald’s Park on Saturday to demonstrate their united opposition to the plans. Major interventions are planned at these two areas as part of the €150m Lower Lee Flood Relief project -

The huge flood defence project is the largest of its kind in the history of the state. Details were unveiled last month ahead of a period of public consultation.

It includes the construction of ‘direct defences’ including new walls and embankments on the River Lee, stretching from key zones at the Lee Fields to the city centre, the construction of walls, embankments and the raising of existing quay walls on the north and south channels of the river; and the installation of flood gates and barriers at other locations.

It includes the development of a new fluvial flood forecasting system, the introduction of new dam discharge procedures for emergency situations at the Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra dams west of the city, and a new early warning system, and drainage improvements. It will also involve the designation of upstream washlands to facilitate greater advance discharges from the dams.

Proposed flood defences along Bachelors Quay, Cork.

The scheme has been designed to minimise flood risk for about 2,000 properties — 1,227 commercial properties and 878 homes — from a one-in-a-century flood event. A further 1,079 properties not at immediate risk of severe flooding — 613 commercial and 466 residential — will also benefit from a significant reduction of flood risk, the scheme claims.

Construction on the first phase, based around the city’s Morrison’s Island, is expected to begin within months, with the bulk of the work getting underway next week. However, it could take up to a decade for the entire scheme to be delivered. The OPW held public consultation days in recent weeks ahead of its February 17 deadline for submissions.

However, a new campaign group, Save Cork City, criticised the level of public consultation and said most people don’t realise the extent or impact of the proposed works.

“There is a genuine lack of knowledge about the proposals and what will happen to Cork city,” architect Seán Antóin Ó Muirí said.

Proposed flood defences along Cork’s quay walls at Cornmarket St Bridge

“We have the longest Georgian quay walls in the country, and they are removing them from places. We are a group of people who care about the city and the river, and who want to use it as an amenity,” he said.

Another campaign member, Polly Magee, also an architect, said while the protection of vulnerable householders and businesses must be prioritised, she said the proposed upstream works may actually increase the flood risk to the city, and that the proposed engineering solutions will obstruct river views.

“The end result will be a disconnection of the historic relationship between the city and the river. Effectively, the city centre is to be turned into a large storm drain,” she claimed. She called for more consultation and more input from non-engineering experts before the final proposals are signed off.

She urged anyone with concerns about the scheme, which can be viewed on www.lowerleefrs.ie, to make a submission to claire.anderson@opw.ie.

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