Cork city flood plans to progress at pace after High Court ruling

The High Court this week upheld a decision to grant permission for remedial works to the quay walls, public realm improvements and flood defence works at Morrison’s Island
Cork city flood plans to progress at pace after High Court ruling

An overview of the full extent Morrison's Island flood defences project. Picture: Cork City Council

The long-planned revamping of parts of Cork City centre under the Morrison’s Island public realm and flood defence scheme looks set to get under way after Cork City Council signalled it would ready a tender following a High Court ruling this week.

That High Court judgment upheld An Bord Pleanála’s permission, granted on June 17, 2020, to Cork City Council for remedial works to the quay walls, public realm improvements and flood defence works at Morrison’s Island.

In an email issued to city councillors, the local authority's chief executive Ann Doherty said: "In a written judgement, the High Court upheld the An Bord Pleanála permission for public realm and flood relief works at Morrison's Island in the city centre and refused a stay on the undertaking of the works. As a result of this decision, I have advised the Infrastructure Development Directorate to prepare the necessary documents required to proceed to tender on this critically important project."

The proposed Trinity Bridge outside the College of Commerce as part of the Morrison's Island plans.
The proposed Trinity Bridge outside the College of Commerce as part of the Morrison's Island plans.

That signal of intent is likely to be welcomed by organisations such as Cork Chamber, which had already hailed the High Court ruling.

Paula Cogan, president of Cork Chamber, said the judgment meant "long-overdue upgrades to the dilapidated and car-focused Morrison’s Quay and Father Matthew Quay can now get under way. A south-facing riverfront amenity can now be created on a part of the Lee that Cork has turned its back on for far too long.

"We recall the most recent large-scale tidal flooding in the city in October 2020, and it is essential that the project moves ahead before this is repeated. 

From a flood defence perspective, the project will protect properties in the area from 70%-80% of tidal flooding, which is an incredible benefit and investment in economic resilience.’’ 

Ms Cogan said the pandemic had brought a fresh focus on what she said was "people-focused infrastructure, climate and wellbeing", with Cork seeing renewed urgency for citizen access to open public space and active mobility options.

"Proceeding at pace to future proof our city and realise the value of this grossly underutilised quayside to a pedestrian and cycle-friendly format cannot be overstated," she said.  

However, the High Court decision came as a blow to the Save Cork City campaign, with Justice Joseph Humphreys granting declaratory relief in respect of the issue of public participation raised by the group, but dismissing the balance of claims seeking the quashing of the decision.

The proposed Morrison's Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project. 
The proposed Morrison's Island Public Realm and Flood Defence Project. 

In a statement, Save Cork City said: "We are sorry we have not achieved more on their behalf. We will continue to question the proposals.

"The judgment is deeply disappointing. We wish to thank our legal team. Their hard work has been invaluable. We will take time to reflect on the judgement with them."

"We face the stark choice of fast-flowing water, pumps, embankments and walls while we live our lives below the level of flood water or the choice of a far safer environment where the great asset of our historic city, the river, can define our wellbeing, our success and our sense of identity."

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