City councillors voted 22-6, following a lengthy debate, to approve the Part 8 planning report on Morrison’s Island regeneration despite significant opposition to the inclusion of flood defences proposed as part of the OPW’s Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme (LLFRS) — the largest flood defence project in the history of the State.
Work will now begin to prepare tender documents for the Morrison’s Island scheme in the hope construction will start before the end of the year, and take eight to 12 months to complete.
The quay revamp received some 1,400 submissions from the public with almost half coming from the Save Cork City (SCC) group, which is opposed to the LLFRS.
Speaking afterwards, SCC spokesman John Hegarty said a lot of the issues and ideas discussed by councillors during an almost 90-minute debate had come from the SCC campaign.
“I know the vote didn’t seem to go our way but actually it did — the councillors realise that there are people out there who love their city and want better things for it,” he said.
“The 1,400 submissions have largely been not listened to and dismissed but I think the effect of the campaign has been positive for the city. We will continue to exist, and use our information and our resources to make a better city.”
Senior city council official David Joyce, who is overseeing the quay revamp, said the Morrison’s Island scheme is a standalone urban renewal project designed to seamlessly blend flood defences with renewal.
The delivery of the flood defences has been brought forward to minimise the risk of tidal flooding to a vast area of the city centre, he said.
“This is a unique opportunity that we should grasp,” said Mr Joyce.
He insisted that even if a tidal barrier was built in the harbour, low-lying areas of the city under 2.7m would still require direct defences.
He said a three-day survey of parking in Morrison’s Island showed 34 cars parked there all day, and 62 parked for eight hours or more, suggesting most of the spaces were being used by commuters, not shoppers.
He said the council plans to minimise the impact of the loss of parking in the area arising out of the revamp by adding 30 parking spaces along Union Quay and by introducing a weekly park and ride ticket.
Officials will also consider reducing parking hours in several areas during construction to encourage space turnover, and will explore the possibility of a park and walk in the docklands.
Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan and Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan called for an independent review of the LLFRS.
Worker’s Party councillor Ted Tynan said he viewed it as the “thin end of the wedge” for the OPW’s plans.
Independent councillor Paudie Dineen said there is an onus on the city to deal with flood risk at Morrison’s Island, which threatens 2,100 people.
Sinn Féin’s Chris O’Leary recalled how a flood incident forced him to close a city centre business in the 1980s.
“We’ve waited a long time for funding, and to address this,” he said. “We can’t sit and do nothing. To do nothing, and to have another flood here in 12 months, would be reckless of us.”
Fianna Fáil’s John Sheehan said a balance has to be struck between all the interests who use, live, and work in the city. Fine Gael’s John Buttimer said by sanctioning the project, councillors were putting down the foundations for a new city, whose focus is shifting eastwards.