The Government has been urged to get tough on the insurance industry amid concerns that the most expensive flood defence project in the history of the State may not be enough to restore flood cover to thousands of affected homes and business.
The call came from business leaders in Cork City last night after Sean Canney, the minister of state with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, unveiled long-awaited details of the €140m flood defence plan which has been designed to protect the city from a once-in-a-century flood event.
The Lower Lee Cork City Drainage Scheme contains a raft of measures, including revised dam management procedures, and the introduction of flood warning and flood forecasting systems to protect up to 3,000 homes and businesses.
However, it also includes a mix of engineering proposals which feature flood gates at some footbridges.
The insurance industry said that the design of the Cork scheme is of critical importance to insurance companies.
“It is important that permanent, fixed flood defences are built rather than flood defences which rely on human intervention such as demountables and floodgates,” Insurance Ireland has said.
The representative body said that demountables and floodgates require human intervention to deploy them, and that if they are not deployed correctly or in time, demountables and floodgates will fail.
“Insurers cannot gamble with major weather events,” it said. “Demountables and floodgates do not meet the required flood defence standard of 1:100 years as of January 2012 which insurers generally regard as essential before they would consider providing flood cover in respect of private dwellings and small business.”
The chief executive of the Cork Business Association, Laurence Owens, welcomed the publication of the city’s flood defence plan, describing it as a seminal day for the city’s traders.
However, he said that the insurance issue needed to be tackled.
The Cork Business Association president, Pat O’Connell, said that once the defences are built, there should be no reason why insurance companies would not engage with traders.
“Surely risk of 1:100 should be acceptable to these companies,” he said.
Irish National Flood Forum spokesman Jer Buckley said the State could no longer invest in flood defence schemes and just let insurance companies walk away.
“It is vital that once this scheme is built, we get flood insurance back,” he said. The minister must get tough with the insurance industry.”
Mr Canney accepted yesterday that the Cork flood defence scheme as proposed would not be enough for insurers to restore flood cover to certain areas.
However, he said the Government is meeting quarterly with the industry to provide it with updated protocols on the operation of flood schemes where floodgates and demountables are being used.
“There are certain outstanding issues around demountable defences in certain areas and we are providing the industry with protocols,” he said.
“There should not be an issue here once the scheme is complete and certified.”
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