The campaign group which is spearheading objections to the single largest investment in flood defences in the history of the state is taking a complaint to the European Commission over Ireland’s approach to flood defences.
Save Cork City's (SCC) complaint against the Minister for the OPW and the agency’s drainage department includes references to “the actions of the executive” of Cork City Council and to the €150m Lower Lee flood relief scheme (LLFRS).
It comes just days after OPW minister Patrick O’Donovan said there has been enough consultation on the LLFRS, which has been in planning for almost 13-years, and that the time has come “to get boots on the ground” and deliver the scheme to protect Cork city.
However, in a statement this weekend, SCC director, John Hegarty, said they have been forced to take a complaint to Europe after their concerns were "largely ignored locally".
A spokesman for the SCC Community Association appealed to those who are opposed to their "tidal barrier-led solution" to engage “in open discussion” on the issue.
“We hope we may find a solution for Cork that is of benefit to everyone in friendship and together,” the group said.
In a statement announcing their latest legal move, SCC described the LLFRS as “damaging to property, the economy, heritage, nature, and the environment generally”, it accused those trying to advance it of engaging in “spin” and “bogus argument”, and of disregarding the opinion “of all but a few local business groups”.
It makes reference to the creation of “a climate of bullying and fear” in order to advance the scheme.
Its statement of grounds for complaint claims that hundreds of submissions on the LLFRS scheme were disregarded and “thousands of concerns were ignored”.
“Window dressing alterations to plans were made with little fundamental change. Supreme Court decisions on the flood protection use of infrastructure made little impact on proposals,” it said.
Its statement says that “people are rightly, deeply concerned and upset by the actions of the OPW drainage department on the natural and built environment and what this means for the quality of life and economic potential of the country”.
It refers to flood defence schemes which it says fail “to live up to myriad obligations that the OPW, local government, and the Irish Government are required to adhere to according to five separate EU Directives related to habitat protection, to floods and water management, to public information and consultation, as well as environmental considerations and assessments”.
It references the alleged illegal splitting of large projects and the presentation of what it describes as “misleading information” to the public.
It also makes reference to “repeated calls” from environmental groups and individuals for a change of policy as “large-scale machinery drives up and down rivers, altering river banks beyond recognition and eliminating species and habitats from locations throughout the country”.
SCC mounted a successful legal challenge against the Morrison’s Island public realm scheme last year, stalling delivery of a scheme designed to remove an estimated 80% of the flood threat to Cork city centre businesses.
An Bórd Pleanála approved the scheme in June, but in early August, SCC applied for a judicial review of the decision. Its application was adjourned to early November.
SCC has also mounted a legal challenge to a major road upgrade project, linking the city centre to the south docklands, over the inclusion of flood defence elements.
During a visit to Cork last week, Mr O’Donovan said he respects the right of people to object and said such input can improve schemes.
“But there also has to be an endgame. And the endgame has to come at some stage soon. Businesses have a right to trade in an environment where they are not going to be flooded,” he said.