Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Mr Patrick O’Donovan TD, has outlined details of the environmental assessment undertaken for the recently approved Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme and has appealed to objectors to the long awaited scheme to reconsider their position.
In a statement, the Minister said the Scheme had been developed by a multi-disciplinary team of local, national and international experts and will protect properties to the internationally recognised standard of protection from flooding when completed.
Since the inception of the scheme, the Blackpool community has engaged extensively with the consultation process, ensuring that local knowledge and the needs of the community have fully informed the evolution of the project design over the last eight years. Extensive consultation has taken place as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment, with Inland Fisheries Ireland, National Monuments and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The scheme design has incorporated many significant environmental mitigation and enhancement measures to address environmental concerns relating to the migration of otters. Many potential solutions were considered during the development of the scheme, including possible upstream storage, but the scheme that emerged ultimately best met the full range of scheme criteria and objectives. This option has been examined for its potential environmental impacts, and the environmental impact assessment reports were then subjected to an independent assessment on behalf of the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform as part of the Confirmation process.
While the scheme has met with some opposition recently, particularly from those concerned about the potential impacts to otters, a range of appropriate mitigation measures are already provided for in the design of the scheme. These include the incorporation of otter ledges and light wells in the culverted section, as well as habitat enhancement measures targeting otters upstream.
The Minister fully recognised everyone’s right to appeal planning decisions, but went on to say:
I appeal to those considering challenging the scheme’s approval, to first consider the homeowners and businesses of this area, who have been subjected to the nightmare of flooding, who remain at risk today, and who now finally see a solution which can bring this nightmare to an end. Nearly 300 properties and businesses will benefit from the Scheme, including many traders whose livelihoods are at stake, especially as many cannot get insurance today due to previous flooding in this community.
Opponents to the scheme are suggesting a range of proposed alternatives, but it is important to recognise that all these alternatives have all already been considered in detail during the development of the scheme. The selection of the confirmed Scheme has been the result of a rigorous selection process to ensure that the solution brought forward represents the optimum solution for Blackpool having fairly weighed up the relative merits of all of the various constraints, opinions and viewpoints. It is hoped that construction can commence on the scheme in early 2022.
Minister O’Donovan concluded:
While the development of a scheme is the main objective of the process, I am glad to say that any scheme is only advanced with a full assessment of the environmental impacts of the measures to be implemented. I am delighted that we now have a scheme to protect the community in Blackpool. This has been achieved following extensive environmental evaluation, before being recommended for approval by that independent process.
Help support Cork Safety Alerts by becoming a member – Click Here