Thursday, 7 February 2019

Ceisteanna (9)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

9. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to outline the status of the flood relief works on the Upper Lee at Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary, County Cork; when the tranche of projects involving Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5959/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Ceist ar Public)

The threat of flooding is a source of constant concern for people in Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary. Residents in 14 houses in Inchigeelagh are under threat, as are 14 businesses, while there are 21 homes and 25 businesses in Ballingeary. The impact on people's lives and homes when a flood comes is severe. There have been plans - we have discussed them in the House – talked about previously to advance flood defences, but they do not seem to be advancing. Will the Minister of State update us on what is happening in the provision of flood defences in Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary in the interests of the people who live there?

In May 2018 I launched flood risk management plans for 29 river basins in Ireland. I identified a total of 118 flood relief projects to protect the main flood risk areas throughout the country. The plans and projects are a key part of the overall flood risk management strategy set out in the national development plan 2018 to 2027, involving a total investment of €1 billion over the ten years of the plan.

The proposed schemes for Ballingeary and Inchigeelagh are not in the first tranche of the project to be progressed. The OPW and Cork County Council are working closely to ensure the programme of flood relief projects identified by Cork County Council is kept under review and that all projects will commence as soon as possible within the ten-year timeframe of the programme investment. However, it is still open to Cork County Council to submit an application for funding under the OPW operated minor works flood mitigation and coastal protection scheme to undertake minor flood works to deal with problems in the area. The scheme's eligibility criteria include the requirement that the cost be beneficial. The details set out on the Office of Public Works website apply to all applications. Once consultants are appointed to progress the flood relief schemes identified in the flood risk management plan, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies, as well as the general public, takes place at the appropriate stages to ensure all parties have an opportunity to have an input in the development of the schemes.

I thank the Minister for outlining the up-to-date position. I am aware of the opportunity under the minor works scheme. The council has been undertaking various works, but the minor works are temporary in nature. They involve removing gravel and vegetation. As anyone knows, the river will bring back the gravel and vegetation will return. They are not long-term or real solutions. What is really needed is the long-term solution of flood defences. I realise the Minster of State is saying the schemes are not included in the first tranche. It was a real disappointment for people in Ballingeary and Inchigeelagh that they were not prioritised. Can they be prioritised in view of the constant threat? There are 21 homes in Ballingeary, while there are 14 householders in Inchigeelagh. When the flood comes, there will be no stopping it. Can the schemes be prioritised for inclusion in the next tranche of the project or even within the current tranche? By their nature, temporary works are not going to last long. We need to provide relief for people. We should also bear this in mind.

I fully appreciate from where the Deputy is coming. He has raised the issue several times in the Dáil. I respect the people he represents. However, I have outlined the position in allowing for minor works to take place.

I disagree with the Deputy. They actually work. We are open to the county council seeking help on the work in the interim for the benefit of the people for whom the Deputy fears. I am open to it but I have not received any application from Cork County Council relating to the two areas in question. If that happens, I will take it on board and work with the council. However, as I outlined, we have launched schemes under tranche 1 and are looking at some schemes under tranche 2, which I have announced. The Deputy has put questions to me but he needs to tell Cork County Council to talk to us in the Department. We will work with it but it must do that.

The smaller works are helpful and they give temporary relief but they are not the solution. Different temporary works have been carried out in both Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary but the long-term scheme must be advanced. People have seen the different drawings which have been presented and have given their input on where they see the flood and how the situation can be improved. The expectation is there. What is needed is for the wider scheme to be advanced and that there be no danger that smaller or temporary works might reduce the priority of a scheme at Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary which must be advanced so that the designs that have been presented to people are made a reality.

The county council is working with my Department on the larger scheme. As I said, we are still open to this. It is some time since Cork County Council came in on minor works. We changed the minor works application to allow substantial moneys to go to the local authorities to help with this issue while we deal with the overall bigger scheme. Cork County Council has had plenty of engagement with my Department in advance of the overall big scheme for the area and we are working on it together.

Deputy Deering has arrived in the Chamber and I have decided we will return to his question. I am sure no one will object. I ask him to keep it brief as he is being accommodated.