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Architects and planners concerned that Cork flood defence plan won't work

Warnings have been issued that parts of Cork city could be flooded between 8 and 9.30am this morning.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexandru Cristian Ciobanu

THE OFFICE OF Public Works is in the middle of planning a flood defence system for Cork city – but some planning experts have raised their doubts that the plan will actually prevent the River Lee from flooding.

In plans that begun in 2013, after a long history of devastating floods in Cork city. Areas potentially prone to flooding from the River Lee downstream of Inniscarra dam to the discharge of the River Lee into Cork Harbour adjacent to Páirc Uí Chaoimh were identified and a number of flood defence options were compiled.

We’re now at Stage Two of the Lower Lee (Cork City) Drainage Scheme – where the proposed plans are shown to the public – and people are a bit concerned.

So what’s the current plan?

On the website set-up by the Office of Public Work (OPW) ‘to inform and update the public’ on the plans and progress of the works, it says the scheme will consist of:

  • Flood defences along the River Lee downstream of Inniscarra dam and through Cork city
  • Changes to the operating procedures for the Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra reservoirs for the purposes of flood risk management, as may be facilitated by the above flood defences
  • A flood forecasting system to help guide decision-making on dam discharges and, if necessary, the erection of temporary/demountable defences downstream and in Cork city.

An ESB infographic of the River Lee’s current system can be viewed here.

Concerns

shutterstock_199338674 Warnings have been issued that parts of Cork city could be flooded between 8 and 9.30am this morning. Source: Shutterstock/Andrei Nekrassov

But there are concerns among a number of engineers, planners, archaeologists and architects about the scale and implications (both environmental, financial and historical) that this scheme is going to have on the city.

The campaign ‘Save Our City’, which are calling on a better flood defence scheme have listed their main concerns on their website. Here are a few:

  • Cultural heritage: The proposals will destroy huge parts of Cork’s historic character through damage to and removal of the city’s historic quay walls and railings, replacing them with basic concrete walls
  • Economic effect: The plan will turn the city into a building site for up to 10 years during the construction works, affecting trade and tourism in the city. The damage to the historic environment will stunt tourism and investment in the longer term
  • Flooding downstream: The Docklands, Blackrock and Mahon are not considered in any depth as part of the proposal, making them more susceptible to flooding in the future.

One architect who lives and works in Cork raised questions about the banking of historical flood plains of the River Lee, as the increased water volume coming into the city centre will create huge pressure on the quay walls – possibly raising the risk of flooding.

The city of Cork is to be turned into a building site for the duration of the works, historical artefacts are to be removed and the visual connection to the Lee is to be severely compromised. I question the validity of the scheme in keeping the international standards set by the Washington Charter (1987) and Venice Charter (1964) for interventions into historic places.
Can the OPW guarantee that this scheme will future proof the city from flooding in years to come? In addition, is there a workable back-up plan in place if it does fail?

If you wish to make a submission to the consultation process, email them to claire.anderson@opw.ie marking them clearly ‘Lower Lee (Cork City) Drainage Scheme’ and include a name and address before 17 February.

Read: Flood defence plan for Cork finally unveiled to the public

Read: ‘We couldn’t go home for five months after the floods. We’re in fear it could happen again’

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