THE people of Bantry have been guaranteed that the town’s flooding crisis will be solved, but there’s still no date for when flood protection work will begin.
Speaking at a press conference with residents and business owners held this week at Bantry’s town square, Minister Patrick O’Donovan said that the government, the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Cork County Council are committed to carrying out and completing the town’s much needed flood relief works.
The Minister also announced that government funds were now available to assist all those who experienced flooding due to Storm Barra.
‘I wanted to come to Bantry to confirm that it is a priority for the OPW to try and get the defences put in place to tackle the flooding in Bantry,’ Minister O’Donovan said.
‘Cork County Council are in the process of appointing the consultants who will untimely lead the design of the Bantry Flood Relief scheme, then we will get into the public consultation phase of the project,’ he said.
Over 25 premises were once again flooded, some for the fourth time in 18 months, last week as Storm Barra roared down Bantry Bay.
The Minister also confirmed that the project to rectify the ‘underground’ river or culvert which flows beneath the town has been given top priority. ‘Cork County Council and the OPW have done a lot of work on this [the culvert project] and throughout 2022 they hope to be in a position where they will be able to do the preliminaries that will allow for a scheme to start on that,’ Minister O’Donovan said.
Cork County Council chief executive, Tim Lucey, who was also in Bantry with the Minister, said: ‘Our immediate focus is to try and get the culvert done as quickly as we can.
‘I wouldn’t want to give timelines but you are certainly looking at from tender to construction in the order of 24 months if not a bit more.’
The Minister added: ‘The two main sources of flooding, from the river and the sea, will be addressed separately but in parallel.’
However, Minister O’Donovan said that he could not give a commitment as to when the construction work on the Bantry Flood Relief project would begin.
‘There is a statutory process that must be followed and I can’t give a commitment on when this will be delivered.’
Danielle Delaney, chair of the Bantry Business Association, was far from reassured after the visit.
‘It’s been 16 months since it was announced that the funding was available from the OPW to Cork County Council for the Bantry Flood Relief Scheme and we are still at a pre-planning stage,’ Danielle told The Southern Star.
‘While we understand that there is a statutory process to be followed, the process as a whole doesn’t allow for the scheme to progress in a meaningful timeframe to prevent lasting damage to the town.
‘We heard that there will be interim works to help protect the town while process is being worked through,’ the Bantry businesswoman said.
But she added: ‘The people of Bantry need to be told what these temporary measures will be and the timeframe attached to help save what we have and allow us to build towards the future.’