A number of Cork county councillors expressed concerns about further hold-ups to flood-relief programmes for Bandon, Skibbereen, and Glanmire.
Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) led the charge, outlining what had happened in two of the towns. In 2009, he said, Bandon suffered serious flooding and both the previous and present governments had promised that money was ringfenced for prevention works.
The scheme was sent out to tender in 2014 but was later withdrawn as the OPW expected a legal challenge. However, a challenge did not materialise.
“The scheme now only went to tender a few days ago. I can only assume the delay was that funding was not in place,” Mr Coleman said. “This is an unacceptable delay for the people of Bandon.”
He described the situation in Skibbereen as “quite perplexing”: “The council completed the tender process and a contractor was nominated. The OPW has now informed us that Minister [Brendan] Howlin’s Department of Public Expenditure is looking for a more in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS).
“They want a further EIS and there’s no timeline available for when this will be completed. I can only conclude these two vital projects are being held up because funding is not in place.”
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) claimed there had been “political interference” with the Skibbereen scheme.
“Everything was in place but I’m shocked to be told it’s gone completely off the table. The people of Skibbereen must now go through another year with the threat of flooding. There’s something gone wrong. Is it an election gimmick or what?”
Cllr Margaret Murphy O’Mahony (FF) said questions needed to be asked of the OPW. “Businesses in the towns are unable to get flood insurance. Drastic action needs to be taken. Maybe we should set up a meeting with the OPW,” she said.
Commenting on the request from Mr Howlin’s department for a new EIS, Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said another layer of bureaucracy had been added to the mix. Cllr Noel O’Donovan (FG) agreed: “These are projects that are very badly needed. Bandon streets are like a moonscape and can’t be resurfaced until the project is completed.”
Cllr Ger Keohane (SF) said reports he received had led him to believe the promised flood-defence works required for Glanmire could be delayed up to three years.
County council chief executive Tim Lucey said he could not give any indication when construction would start in Bandon. “In relation to Skibbereen, tenders have been assessed and completed. The OPW requires approval from the Department of Public Expenditure. I don’t have any information on Glanmire but I certainly want to progress that scheme as well.”
Councillors agreed to write to the OPW and to Mr Howlin.
In a recent Dáil reply to Billy Kelleher, junior minister Simon Harris said that a preferred option was expected to be finalised in the coming months for the Glanmire project.
More than 60 homes and dozens of businesses were inundated when the River Glashaboy burst its banks in June 2012. Mr Harris said it was likely to be early 2017 before works can begin. He claimed funding was in place for the project for 2017 and 2018, but did not give a date when work may be finalised.