Cork coastal erosion: 'Vast amounts of farmland' disappearing

Plans to remedy the problem, mothballed 20 years ago, will now cost multiples of original €25m estimate
Cork coastal erosion: 'Vast amounts of farmland' disappearing

Youghal's Front Strand, Co Cork, one of the beaches under threat. Picture: Denis Minihane

Plans for a €25m project to tackle coastal erosion in parts of East Cork which were mothballed 20 years ago will cost multiples more now because the rate of land loss has accelerated rapidly.

Councillors in the region have called for a new study to be carried out into the full extent of the problem amid claims that "vast amounts of farmland" have disappeared since then.

Mayor of County Cork, Independent councillor Mary Linehan-Foley, said a study needed to be carried out as a matter of urgency on coastal erosion from Youghal's Claycastle beach to Pilmore beach.

She said she'd received a number of calls from worried constituents and was herself concerned that the lack of groynes was leading to sand being blown off Youghal's Front Strand beach.

Ms Linehan-Foley said two years ago she had raised issues about coastal erosion with the council's coastal management committee.

She said there are now a number of areas between Claycastle and Pilmore which couldn't be walked on because of coastal erosion and this had only occurred in the past year.

Catastrophic damage

Ms Linehan-Foley said the Youghal area relies heavily on tourism and further erosion of its beaches could have a catastrophic effect on the town's economy.

“It really does need to be addressed. We know the importance of tourism to Youghal and there are safety issues here too, “ Fine Gael councillor Susan McCarthy told a meeting of the East Cork Municipal District Council.

Mayor of County Cork Mary Linehan-Foley has called for a study to be carried out as a matter of urgency on coastal erosion from Youghal's Claycastle beach to Pilmore beach.
Mayor of County Cork Mary Linehan-Foley has called for a study to be carried out as a matter of urgency on coastal erosion from Youghal's Claycastle beach to Pilmore beach.

Council engineers said that 20 years ago consultants undertook a survey at Youghal's Front Strand and recommended five groynes be installed to stop the sand blowing away. The cost of the project at the time was €1.5m.

Fine Gael councillor Michael Hegarty said a survey was carried out around the same time into coastal erosion between Youghal and Whitegate.

It recommended that extensive use of rock armour was needed and this was estimated at the time to cost in the region of €25m.

“Since then we've seen vast areas of farmland disappear. Private caravan park owners have had to put in rock armour themselves,” Mr Hegarty said.

Meanwhile, concerns were also raised about access to Whitebay beach.

Ms McCarthy said as a child she remembered there was easy access to the beach via a laneway which was always properly maintained.

However, she said it's “almost impassable now” because of overgrown vegetation.

“Whitebay beach is a much-used amenity in East Cork. I remember 30 years ago, it was a grand laneway,” she said.

Sean O'Callaghan, the council's senior executive officer for the region, said the local authority had sought funding from the government for the project and is hoping it'll be done next year.

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