Q&A: What is going on with the Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme?

The scheme has been welcomed in some corners but others have said it will damage the ecosystem around the river
Q&A: What is going on with the Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme?

The Bride River at Orchard Court, Blackpool, Cork. Picture: Larry Cummins

A €20m flood relief scheme has been approved for Blackpool in Cork City.

The scheme has been welcomed in some corners but others have said it will damage the ecosystem around the river.

Here’s what’s going on.

Why is a flood relief scheme needed?

The River Bride flows through the heart of Blackpool and towards the River Lee in Cork City.

The area has been hit significantly by flooding a number of times in recent years, specifically in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

Local politicians have said that businesses in the area cannot get flood insurance. 

What is involved in the scheme?

As reported in the Irish Examiner earlier this month, the proposed scheme will include the construction of direct flood defences and river flow improvement measures along a stretch of the River Bride.

The measures include the construction of several hundred metres of new flood walls and earthen embankments, a controversial plan to build new culverts and cover a section of the previously open river channel, as well as bridge replacements, the installation of sediment traps, modifications to existing foul and surface water collection networks in the area, and the construction of pumping stations.

The proposal first went out for public consultation in 2015 and has now been given formal approval by Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath.

What has the reaction been like?

Mr McGrath said that the Government “is very conscious of the significant damage that flooding events can cause, and I am acutely aware of the impact of the serious flooding events in this area in the past”.

He added: "I am delighted that the Blackpool flood relief scheme for the River Bride will now proceed to the next stage of development."

The Department of Public Expenditure has said that 293 properties (206 residential and 87 commercial) will be protected by the scheme.

The Rive Bride in Blackpool. 
The Rive Bride in Blackpool. 

They said that it will provide the standard protection against a flood event with a 1% probability of occurring in any given year.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke – who has a constituency office in Blackpool – also welcomed the scheme.

He hailed it as a milestone for a much-needed project.

He said businesses in the area had suffered badly from flooding over the years and many can’t get flood insurance.

So why are some people against the scheme?

A newly formed environmental group has hit out at the scheme, saying that it will result in more flooding instead of less, and will see a loss of habitat for the European otters, a protected species, which live on the River Bride.

Save Our Bride Otters (SOBO) is seeking a judicial review of the scheme.

Spokesperson Chris Moody said that the scheme is an “expensive destruction of a very busy and valuable wildlife habitat”.

He said that the European otter is a protected species that is in decline.

“Ireland is now one of the remaining strongholds for the species, and Cork Harbour, the River Lee and its tributaries such as the Bride is a key stronghold for otters.

"There are also many other species using this unique stretch of urban river, such as trout, dipper, heron and mallard. It is a healthy little ecosystem and a neglected jewel in Blackpool.” 

SOBO says that a better solution to prevent flooding in the Blackpool area could be achieved "at a fraction of the cost" by slowing down the flow in the river using nature-based temporary storage upstream.

What happens now?

SOBO is seeking a judicial review into the scheme and is currently raising money for it to go ahead.

There is a three month period from when the scheme was first given formal consent – on March 12 – during which it can be subject to a judicial review.

If SOBO is successful in the judicial review bid, it could prevent the scheme from going ahead in the current form.

In a judicial review, the High Court will examine the decision and how it was reached and will decide whether or not it was unconstitutional or illegal. 

The High Court may then quash or cancel the decision. Other orders that are available include declarations or injunctions of an interim, interlocutory or permanent nature.

What has been said about the review?

While SOBO plans to push ahead with the review, one local councillor has said the group is in the minority in the area.

Kenneth O’Flynn said that the group has a right to a judicial review but added: “For most business owners in Blackpool, who are living in fear every time there’s a downpour, I think they are very much in support of the project.

“We need to allow businesses to reopen and flourish in the area. No-one is willing to take the risk of investing in Blackpool because you can’t get flood insurance.”

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