Fine Gael TD for Cork East Constituency, David Stanton, has called for clarity on the progression of local flood relief schemes in East Cork and interim measures being taken to alleviate future flooding in local communities.
Raising the matter with the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Jack Chambers TD, in the Dáil Chamber, David Stanton said: “It is now over three months since Storm Babet. There was water 3 ft or 4 ft high in houses, homes and businesses and cars and roads were destroyed. For many years now, we have been promised a flood relief scheme not only for Midleton, but also for Castlemartyr and Mogeely.
“We need to expedite the flood defences. What has happened in the past three months in that regard? I have been raising this consistently with my colleagues since that time. I was told a few weeks ago that there is a plan to divert the River Kiltha in Castlemartyr, for instance. There were possible interim plans. What will happen in Mogeely?
“These are questions people are asking. They are concerned about it. The situation is beyond urgent at this stage. We were all aghast at the flooding but my experience through many years is that once something has been seen, dealt with and highlighted, it then fades away. I do not want this issue to fade away. I am afraid it will happen again. We were very lucky that there were no fatalities the last time.
“At least two bridges I know of need to be replaced. The Minister of State has seen those bridges and some of the roads affected. I understand Cork County Council is in discussion with his Department, namely, the Department of Transport, for roads funding. When will that funding be released? When will we have certainty in that regard?”
In response Minister Chambers said: “While the planning stage for this project is due to commence shortly, Cork County Council is assessing Storm Babet to identify the possibility of advancing any viable interim and targeted works for the town. Identification and ongoing roll-out of interim measures has also been progressed, including the removal of trees in channel at Moore’s Bridge and installation of a water level gauge at Tir Cluain bridge, with additional gauges to be installed at Lidl bridge and the pedestrian bridge in People’s Park in January.
“The OPW and local authorities do not have the powers to expedite the schemes arising from the damage caused by flooding events. The delivery of all schemes must meet all regulatory and planning requirements. Consideration is being given to the preferred planning route that can deliver this scheme as quickly as possible.
“I understand the importance of bringing security and certainty for the wider community who live in fear of the next storm and the next event. There is an obligation on the State and the wider structures of the State to respond properly and with sincerity to make progress in the interests of the communities the Deputy represents and address the concerns he has articulated. I take that point very seriously.
“Two meetings have been scheduled recently between the steering group for the scheme and locally elected representatives, businesses and residents. One took place in November of last year and the other is scheduled for this month. The Government is committed to the delivery of a flood relief scheme for Midleton. I will raise the wider concerns and points the Deputy has made and the need for absolute focus on delivery and progress on this matter for the people in Midleton.
“Regarding the roads, which have been atrociously damaged, I know, there is extensive work ongoing between Cork County Council and the Department of Transport on putting the final estimate together. We will be responding properly so that there are full repairs and restoration of the road network, both local and regional, that was very badly affected during that period and will try to make significant progress on that this year”.
While acknowledging the flood relief works currently being undertaken, Deputy Stanton reiterated that continued resourcing and funding is required across East Cork given the severity of the damage and the credible threat of similar events occurring in the future.
David Stanton concluded by drawing attention to the need to support local businesses and households still facing difficulty in securing funding such as those that were underinsured, whose insurance companies have been slow to honour payments or whose business infrastructure was not covered under existing funding schemes.