Notes from a meeting of the Full Council, 10th January, 2015.
[a] CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
1. Minutes of Meeting of the Council held on 14th December, 2014.
Proposed and seconded.
Amendment requested by Cllr D’Alton (Ind). In the last meeting’s discussion on climate change, she did not say that climate change should be made part of the planning process. Said that planning for climate change should become part of everything that we do.
[b] VOTES OF SYMPATHY
2. Votes of Sympathy (if any) to the relatives of:
- members or employees of the Council,
- dignitaries of Church or State, or
- members of old I.R.A. and Cumann na mBan.
Votes of sympathy were expressed.
[c] STATUTORY BUSINESS
3. Disposal of Property – Section 183 of the Local Government Act, 2001:
Blarney Macroom Municipal District Meeting: 27th November, 2015
(a). Disposal of 306 Cloughphilip, Tower, Blarney, Co. Cork.
(b). Disposal of land at Kilnamuckey, Tower, Blarney, Co. Cork.
West Cork Municipal District, 7th December, 2015:
(c). Disposal of land at Butlerstown, , Bandon, Co. Cork.
(d). Disposal of No. 6 Casement Street, Clonakilty, Co. Cork.
(e). Grant of Wayleaves at Durrus, Co. Cork.
Kanturk Mallow Municipal District Meetings: 4th December, 2015:
(f). Disposal of property at Knockduff Upper, Cullen, Mallow, Co. Cork
East Cork Municipal District, December, 2015:
(g). Disposal of property at Ballyvergan West, Youghal, Co. Cork.
(h). Amendment to Disposal of land at Ballybearna, Ballinhassig, Co. Cork, by the substitution of “Wayleave measuring 81m x 5m and Right of Way measuring 81m x 5m” in lieu of “Wayleave measuring 76m x 5m and Right of Way measuring 76m x 5m”being the area of said property.
(i) Amendment to Disposal of 51 Liam McGearailt Place, Fermoy, Co. Cork, by the substitution of No. 52 in lieu of No.51 being the area of said property .
Proposed and seconded.
[e] CORRESPONDENCE FROM GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS
Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources:
Letter dated 4th December, 2015, in response to Council’s letter of 14th July, 2015 regarding Whitegate refinery.
Correspondence from Dept of Env, Community & L.Gov
Cllr Buckley (SF): Very disappointed with the Minister’s response. This refinery underpins the local economy. It provides 600 jobs. Its loss would be a devastation to East Cork.
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government: Letter dated 15th December, 2015, in response to Council’s letter of 2015 regarding Income thresholds for social housing.
Correspondence from Dept of Env.
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government: Letter dated 21st December, 2015, in response to Council’s letter of 21st November 2015 concerning global valuations of utilities undertaken by the Valuation Office.
[d] REPORTS & RECOMMENDATIONS OF COMMITTEES
The CE presented a report on recent flooding events.
He went through the report briefly:
- Met Eireann reported triple the normal rainfall in many parts of December. Wettest places were in County Cork. Roches Point reported its highest rainfall since 1955. Rainfall at Cork Airport was well higher than the normal 3 month average. We had three winter storms. The highest national 10 minute wind speed was recorded in Co. Cork at 102 km/h.
- The response was effected by Severe Weather Assessment Team and Crisis Management Team. Convened 17 times between Dec 27th to Jan 2nd.
- Cork County Council made contact with a lot of families in Midleton. Some families relocate on their own and don’t make contact with us but if families need help and ask for it, we help.
- Commends community and voluntary effort.
- 329 emergency calls in total were made to the fire emergency services.
- Council staff worked over 4,000 days during the storms in December.
- The Civil Defence was of tremendous help.
- The Council extended the emergency phone line to 24 hours a day once Storm Frank hit. This received over 2,300 calls.
- We don’t respond to comments on Facebook and Twitter as a Council. We are not interactive that way. But we used them for critical messaging. Updates on Facebook reached 150,000 followers.
- Road assessment and restoration has commenced throughout the county.
- €2.4m worth of damage was done during the storms in September 2015.
- €7.4m worth of damage was done during the storms of 2012.
- This event was far more wide-ranging with far greater impact than either of those events. The Department has asked us for an estimate of the damage. At this early stage, we reckon it will be €15 – 20m.
- A formal request from government for details of particular roads and infrastructure to be restored is expected.
- We opened our Civic Amenity Sites to take flood damaged goods.
- We have asked consultants to advise on possible causes of flooding in MIdleton. This will be dealt with at Municipal District level.
- Tenders for Bandon flood relief are in on 14th Tenders for Skibbereen will be opened at Council meeting on 8th February.
- If there is an emergency, a local authority can do works on a stream or river. Inland Fisheries says it will facilitate emergency works. Cork County Council has consulted with Inland Fisheries Ireland and the current indication is that they would not regard dredging in Bandon as emergency works because there are planned schemes in place.
- Some towns have flood committees, whereas others operate on an ad hoc basis. We will work with any of these. There is an opportunity to put these more structured committees in place as is the case in Skibbereen. We would encourage that.
- December has been very challenging.
- welfare.ie outlines the relief schemes/humanitarian assistance offered by Department of Social Protection.
- 50% of claims made nationally are from County Cork.
- 3 weeks ago the Southern Star said that Cork County Council was potentially delaying the payment of the €5,000 to some applicants because of a delay in processing forms. Guarantees that every single form was returned within 24 hours. A similar allegation was made by a Cork County Council member in the West Cork Municipal District (Cllr Hayes) last week. It was again reported by the paper. That is not accurate at all.
- Farmers who have suffered fodder losses are also being helped by the Department of Social Protection.
- Thanks Members of Council for their support. Is aware that the weather conditions were challenging for councillors too. The executive tries to support as best it can. The relationship between councillors and executive on the ground was positive. Thanks also to the media, in particular 96FM and Red FM. Their reporting helped alert the public significantly.
All motions on flooding are taken together.
5. West Cork Municipal District:
“In light of recent severe weather events, that this Council calls on the Government to introduce emergency legislation to facilitate the cleaning, dredging and maintenance of waterways which would override obstacles that are in place which currently hinders or prevents this type of work” and
“That this Council would provide additional funding and resources to be put in place to enable an annual maintenance and preventative programme of both roads and waterways which would leave the Council best placed to deal with future severe weather events”.
Cllr C O’Sullivan (FF): Thanks the CEO for his outline. Very informative. Commends Cork County Council and staff for their reaction. They were very visible and present. Criticism was not fair. The reaction, response and availability of area engineers and staff on the ground even to councillors was commendable.
There are two parts to the Municipal District’s motion. The first part has already been touched on. There is a mechanism that can be used to do works in rivers and streams. Inland Fisheries reacts slowly. The Municipal District urges Cork County Council to implement that mechanism. People on the ground know that some work to that effect would go some way (not all the way) to alleviating some of the issues that arose.
Part B of the motion – the whole approach to our road networks should be taken differently. These events are happening far more regularly. The winter maintenance budget and drainage in particular need addressing. The West Cork road network is devastated. The tarmac is starting to bubble up. Some 11 or 12 roads around Dunmanway are closed. Instead of reacting to these types of events, there should be a whole new approach from Council and government. Concrete gullies need to be installed where applicable. Let each Area Egnineer decide how to drain best. If you keep the water off the roads, problems will be minimised.
Cllr PG Murphy (FF): We have to think strategically how we face these problems. They are happening with more regularity. We have to be prepared for that. The CEO’s estimate of €15 – 20m is quite frightening. FG says they will put money into it but we haven’t seen that money yet. The Area Office doesn’t know what it has to play with. The staff were excellent in West Cork. The embargo on recruitment has affected the number of ground staff available to respond to events like this. We are possibly understaffed to deal with events like this. Is not sure if the OPW is fit for purpose. They huff and puff but don’t get a lot done. Dredging of rivers needs to be allowed. Our waterways, dykes and drains need to be maintained. Our winter maintenance budget was halved over the last number of years. We need to bring this back to close to where it was. We need to do an audit, look at our waterways, dredge where necessary, open up our waterways. This won’t solve all our problems but it will help. We are spending money now on patching, but we need to be using that money more strategically.
6. Councillor Ian Doyle:
“That Cork County Council will apply to the Government and the Department of the environment for emergency funding. This funding is to supply staff, resources and equipment to open up the dykes drains and waterways throughout the county, particularly after the rainfall of the last few weeks. This is now an urgent matter. It also should be noted the tremendous work done by the staff of Cork County Council with the resources available to them over this period.
Cllr Doyle (FF): Praises Cork County Council staff. They worked over and beyond the call of duty. Says thank you sincerely. Have had two motions to this Council previously on the effect of the embargo. Not having front line staff to do the very basic housekeeping tasks. We have two flood problems in our Municipal District district. The flood defences in Fermoy and Mallow thankfully worked. But we have localised flooding too. In most cases, these were caused by dykes and drains not being cleared. None has been cleaned for the last 8 – 9 years around our county road network. We need to draw up a compromised plan of work to be done on this, cost it and apply for funding. We haven’t got the money ourselves to do this. We are all talking about the Municipal District approach and how effective it is going to be but we all need to have a comprensive dyke amd drain clean. We are facing a €20m bill. If the dykes and drains were cleaned, we would not have to spend this money. We need to lift the embargo. We need the Municipal Districts to meet to draw up this costed plan.
7. Councillor Margaret Murphy O’Mahony:
“This Council calls on the Government for emergency funding to repair roads damaged in the recent storms. Funding to include money for cleaning of ditches, drains, streams etc. to prevent future erosion of roads when repaired.”
Cllr Murphy O’Mahony (FF): Pays special tribute to local engineer, Charlie McCarthy. He was on the end of the phone 24-7 during the flooding period. The timeframe given for the flood relief schemes are no longer acceptable. We are waiting too long. A legal challenge has affected their delivery. This is no grounds for the holding up of the schemes. A week is a quarter of the time period since the Minister’s visit. This government has blamed EU Directives for not dredging the River Bandon. Now we learn that this is not the case. Is asking for proper dredging of the River Bandon. We will face any legal challenge that arises from this. Is asking for funding for maintenance of drains, ditches, etc. Calls on the government to provide emergency funding for roads. Would like to point out the large amounts of money being diverted from our motor tax to Irish Water. This government is underspending on road maintenance and investment. Underspent by less than €289m last year. As a direct result, many roads were not able to cope with the adverse conditions. Calls on the government to provide emergency funding.
8. Councillor Frank O’Flynn:
“That Cork County Council prepare a list of necessary works to be undertaken and the cost of these works arising from the recent severe flooding throughout the county and call on the Ministers for the Environment to make the necessary finding available to enable these works be carried out and that Cork County Council put in place a strategy for the future management and prevention of flooding.
Cllr O’Flynn (FF): Thanks the CE for the staff in the Fermoy Municipal District. The outdoor staff were magnificent. The engineer is fantastic. Leave him with us! Gives a vote of thanks to all the staff but especially to those in the Fermoy electoral area. Thanks the gardai, the Civil Defence, the Fire Brigade. The embargo needs to be lifted. This should go as an emergency motion from this meeting. Numerous people are asking that the message on the emergency line would be shorter. It would make it easier for people in an emergency. The €20m figure should go to the Minister. We need a designated person in Cork County Council and a designated number to help families who have been affected by the flooding. Asks that we put a team in place to look at planning. Noel O’Keeffe was big into water harvesting. We don’t do it any more. For future flooding and future problems, we need to put a strategic team together.
Cllr Murphy (FG): Thanks all the staff. This was an extraordinary flood. Does not believe any drainage works would have helped. The drainage works that were supposed to take place in Bandon were challenged over the years by Inland Fisheries. If we don’t get to grips with the response from Inland Fisheries, we are going nowhere. There was one challenge from a contractor and another from Inland Fisheries. We have to ask Inland Fisheries to back off. Is deeply concerned that another challenge could come to the Bandon flood relief scheme. David Keane (County Engineer) said that as far as he is concerned, the ownership of the waterways has been passed over to the farmers. Wants clarification of who owns the waterways. Agrees with Cllr Doyle that we need a countywide policy in relation to drainage in each Municipal District. We are just coming to grips with improvements in our road network and all of a sudden we have taken a massive step backwards. In some cases the roads are totally washed away. In Kinsale, there were about 9 premises in total affected.
Cllr McGrath (FF): Thanks CE for report. Would have liked it in advance of the meeting. Some hosueholders and businesses have experienced a horrendous time. We need to be as constructive as we can and set about developing plans for the future. It has been the wettest and warmest winter on record. There is an inadequacy in ability to respond due to shortage of outdoor staff on the ground. Ongoing maintenance of drainage infrastructure has been a problem for some time. Those on the ground did their absolute best but there was a shortage of numbers. We need to recruit more outdoor staff. We have seen hypocrisy from some government Ministers who are trying to pass the buck back to local authorities. We do not have the resources we need to deal with this situation. Alan Kelly would be particularly culpable here. We are told that flooding has not been caused by a lack of funding. But there are two examples in his Municipal District alone here where funding was a direct cause of flooding. Ballinhassig, flooded in 2009 and flooded again in 2015. We have tried to get funding from the OPW for flood relief for Ballinhassig but no funding was received. Glenbrook in Passage West saw flooding in the last few weeks and again in 2009. A flood relief scheme has been submitted and adequate funding has not been made available. This kind of extreme weather is going to be recurring and we need to make plans. Acknowledges the efforts made by the community.
Cllr Hurley (Ind): Supports all that has been said. Seconds Cllr Doyle’s motion. We need to get back to basics getting the work that needs to be done on the ground done. We need proper maintenance of rivers. The government needs to introduce emergency legislation to facilitate the cleaning, dredging and maintenance of rivers and waterways. Inland Fisheries have indeed been an obstacle in the past. We need an annual maintenance and preventative programme for both rivers and roads. They are neglected and do not have the holding capacity any more. We cannot be waiting years and years for flood relief to be carried out. We need a longer term solution. West Cork is a beautiful place but the roads are built on bog and rock. It takes very little to affect the surface. This is what has happened. Local authorities are starved of resources to deal with events like these. The 2016 roads allocation was €9m. It is a drop in the ocean.
Cllr O’Laoghaire (SF): A lack of investment in some of the flood relief programmes has been a cause of flooding. Mentioned Bandon and Glenbrook. Douglas-Togher was affected but not as badly as other areas. Flood relief there was effective in protecting may be one or two properties but had a spin-off effect on other properties. What is the procedure for distribution of sandbags? Can residents arrive to collect them? Understands that if some properties had received sandbags, they might not get assistance from the Red Cross. Would like clarification on this. Knows Cork County Council worked extremely hard. But understands that the workers got time off in lieu. Thinks they should get time and a half or double time as compensation for the effort made. CE said on News at One that we have adequate resources. Cork County Council had 1,285 outdoor staff in 2008 and 478 in 2014. Would be very surprised if this gave us adequate resources! Pays tribute to the community, particularly in looking after the elderly and infirm.
Cllr Rasmussen (Lab): It is time to reflect and see what we can learn. Many people had difficulty in getting through on the emergency line. Had a motion in about blocked drains at Municipal District level to see could we draw up a list of drain cleaning that should be done in the Municipal District. The response wasn’t good. The attitude seemed to be “why should we be doing this?”. Appreciates that drain cleaning is not enough to solve the problem but it does help. Is concerned that because there are so many roads, the man-hours necessary to fix them will be a problem. Asks about 3 – 4 roads closed in his own area of Cobh.
Other Members comment:
Cllr O’Keeffe (FF): Staff were exhausted but morale was high. The embargo will have to be lifted. The flood relief works worked really well in Mallow and Fermoy. We need a reserve crew in place to erect the flood barriers. The area staff staff were not available to erect the flood barriers in Fermoy when they were needed. €500m for flood defence works announced by government. But what happens if this is not built. It took two floods in Bandon to get the proper pumps in place. Sandbags were scarce.
Cllr Sheppard (FG): Disappointed that we got the CE’s report only this morning. We needed it with the agenda or on Friday. Acknowledges the work of the Council staff over the Christmas. Although we did what we could do, it wasn’t really enough. Rang the emergency number 28 times before it was answered. Was trying to get sandbags for an estate in Glanmire in which the houses had no insurance which was about to flood. The shores were very blocked in Cobh but we largely got away with it. Some roads are still closed off at the back of the Island. We are told they are not a high priority because other areas are worse. Glanmire is listed as a medium level of risk. It really should be classified as high. Council staff were pumping the Glashaboy river and commends them for that, but houses in this area have no flood insurance. The buck is being passed and would like to see action on this. We need to be more proactive.
Cllr M Collins (Ind): Commends all those from Council, voluntary staff, etc. who worked so hard. The cleaning of the rivers has been stopped by rules and regulations. Asked for an emergency meeting on 28th December but rules and regulations would not allow this either. In the UK, David Cameron was allowed to call an emergency meeting. It is rules and procedures that have stopped us from doing necessary maintenance. The staff embargo has prevented us from doing necessary maintenance. Recently met a retired council worker who commented on the regularity of cleaning of dykes, etc. in the old days. There are roads closed everywhere. It has been a disaster in West Cork in relation to these three storms. We have to be ready to act when these events hit us.
Cllr N O’Donovan (FG): The Council staff from top to bottom made a serious effort. We have to learn from these events. This government is taking flooding seriously. Agrees with Cllr Collins that West Cork is a disaster. Roads that were resurfaced during the year have been washed away again. We are wasting money. Would like to see us focusing on our core function: road structure. Would like a proper plan prepared on drainage and dykes. Possibly write to the Department about looking for more discretion on spending in this area.
Cllr J Collins (FG): Commends the efforts of staff in the Carrigaline area. They were out morning, noon and night. It started raining on 8th November and we had only 2 dry days between that and Christmas. So the ground was saturated. We have no early warning with regard to saturation. The OPW should advise well in advance of flooding. We did build on floodplains in the last 30 years. Spoke of the bog in Bandon. When he was growing up, the donkeys were on the bog in Bandon and they were taken off for the winter. Now there is a shopping centre on the bog. The NRA made totally inadequate efforts on the N25 around Killeagh. Imagine if a closure of that length of time had happened along the M50 in Dublin!
Cllr Coleman (Ind): 29,000 hours is a lot of hours for the Council staff to be out working over Christmas. Thanks the public also for the work they did. Who is running the show in any town? Is it the chief supervisor or the engineer? Has the Department indicated that it will come forward with funding? Was disturbed when Inland Fisheries Ireland indicated that its perspective on the Local Authorities Works Act of 1949 differs from ours. If flood defences are proposed, then surely it should be obvious that flood control is necessary. Thinks we should get a legal view on the European legislation and the 1949 legislation, find out for ourselves how far we can go and what we should do. There is a reason this legislation was made. Was surprised to see that consultants are being employed to do corrective action in the Bandon area. Would like more detailed commentary on that.
Cllr S McCarthy (FG): Am a resident of Midleton. Cork County Council response was good but not sure how good it would have been without the response of the community. Companies, business community, Red Cross, fire brigade were all out to help. The one concern though throughout all of this was communication. We need to look at this going forward. There was a problem for public representatives. The people on the ground were looking to us and we didn’t have the answers. The emergency number is a number available to everybody. The emergency line is subcontracted to a call centre in Dublin. A call centre in Dublin is just not good enough. I asked many times for feedback when I rang that number. But I never got that feedback. We need a task force in place. Asks that elected members would be kept in the loop. Will have a motion in 2 weeks time. Need a direct line for elected members in crises like this. Also a text alert system.
Cllr Mullane (SF): We are lucky in Mallow because we have flood defences. Many saw pictures of the Mallow flood plain. It had 8 – 9 feet of water. There are two families still in that. Wants to ask whether they will have access to the humanitarian assistance scheme? There is no plan or protocol for when there is a flood. Could we write to the Department on this? The embargo needs to be lifted because of the cut in outdoor staff. The Sinn Féin MEP has done work on the dredging of rivers of streams. The EU Directives do not ban dredging of rivers and streams. Nothing in the Directives stop dredging when that dredging is in the overriding public interest.
Cllr O’Donovan (FG): Agrees with Cllr Doyle about clearing of dykes and ditches. Wanted to ask about the interim works for Bandon. What is the time period within which the consultant needs to come back to Council?
Cllr B Moynihan (FF): Getting water off the roads is so important. We have a sparse population where I come from but a high density of roads. Municipal Districts work well but we have no idea how we are going to deal with this problem into the future. Our Municipal Districts have no money, no matter what the Minister is saying. Wants to know when this money the Minister is talking about is going to be available. We have top class people. They know how to solve the problems but they have no money for it.
(6 FF present)
Cllr R McCarthy (SF): Thanks all in the community and voluntary sector. These were staff that were on their holidays. Cllr J O’Donovan was filling sandbags in the Council yard. He was also out on Christmas Day. Who is coordinating the emergency plan? Is asking that footpaths would be cleaned in Bandon and the playground also. Reminds councillors that the Sinn Féin team had suggested in its alternative budget that €200k would be put aside to clear waterways and drains, etc. This was rejected.
Cllr Hayes (SF): Thanks to all the staff, emergency services, etc. There was a huge community effort also. Spoke of Directives and their implications. Rivers can be restocked after dredging but dredging needs to happen. Alan Kelly is on the TV and radio regularly with a very big wallet. There are 12,000 km roads in Cork County and we have one of the lowest allocations in return from road tax. We had a good meeting with Minister Harris in Bandon. Knows the local engineers were putting together a plan/wish list to send to the OPW for pumps, etc. Is wondering if this list has gone yet? Installation of non-return valves should be on the list. Refers to the piece in the Southern Star that the CE mentioned. His reference to delays in processing were taken directly from a letter circulated to all councillors by the Red Cross. He quoted the letter directly.
Cllr Carroll (FF): Thanks the CE for the report. Is there any kind of a bonus scheme for the council workers, etc? Also concerned that they won’t hear our thanks from this morning. Thanks the farmers that came up from West Cork. We are tired of Department officials and Inland Fisheries hiding behind Directives. These Directives do not apply if there is a human issue at stake. They cannot hold up a scheme. The road network in West Cork cannot be compared to roads in any other county. We collect the road tax for the government as their agent. We need a return on this.
Cllr N Collins (Ind): Thanks to all who assisted. Time is running out for funding to help the people of Midleton get back to their homes. There is both fluvial and tidal flooding in Midleton. Midleton Town Council approved major capital for the provision of flood defences in Midleton town. This being so, it would be best to have a single flooding contract to deal with both flooding types. Moves this as a proposal. Thanks all the locations that have put up affected families. Thanks the farming community for their tankers.
Cllr Lombard (FG): Congratulates all. Ballinhassig was flooded badly. It flooded badly three times since 2009. We need to look at the rivers themselves. We have been told that legally landowners are obliged to clean their rivers. We need clarity on this.
Cllr Forde (FG): Spoke about Council staff. Would like us to be able to deploy extra staff. Should be more availability of sandbags. Curraheen was in danger of having a major incident. They only barely escaped. Asks about Lee CFRAMS study. Thinks the Municipal Districts have a greater role to play in relation to texting in emergencies. Thinks a meeting of the Municipal District should have been convened immediately to discuss issues like, to clarify where were sandbags available, etc. The volume of water in Douglas was phenomenal. Ravensdale was very serious. The water should have been dredged there much earlier. The government has responded. The local authority has the expertise but we do need to bear in mind that in relation to planning, zoning and conditions, we need to be far more careful in relation to our Local Area Plans. What debate have we had in relation to mitigating measures we are taking in relation to climate change? When Douglas was flooded, she asked for a review of the insurance industry. People’s policies become renewed at different times and there is no data available. This is a real problem. Hopes it can be addressed now.
Cllr Barry (FG): Spoke of the emergency number. Felt totally out of the loop because he could not contact that number. All he wanted was sandbags. Collins Barracks was going to bring them down but needed authorisation from the Cork County Council. We couldn’t get that. A local contractor tore out a trash screen and kept the floods down. There are still houses in Carrigtwohill pumping water. We have a serious issue with the Masterplans and the Local Area Plans. The Masterplan areas were under serious flooding for the last number of days. We have to look at this again.
(5 FF, 9 FG present now)
Cllr A Moynihan (FF): Praised staff and communities. The staff was hugely overstretched. It is clear that the embargo needs to be lifted. There needs to be a drainage campaign. Yet on its own it is not adequate. There needs to be a comprehensive flood defence plan brought forward by the OPW. They are working on some of them but it is too slow. They need to look upstream as well as downstream. Look at sewers in villages. Some are backing up. It is good that the CE has compiled the report. Road tax not coming back is driving people mad. The funding figure that the CE identified as necessary needs to be made available.
Cllr K McCarthy (Ind): Staff and communities were wonderful but resources were a real issue. We are going to have a lot more emergencies. €430m over the next 5 years is pocket money for what we will see over the coming years. We need to get serious about this. The government needs to respond. Visited people last Saturday who had never been visited by the Council. People in small towns and villages are still waiting. The government must respond better.
Cllr Buckley (SF): Cork County Council has employed a consultant to advise on why Midleton is flooding. Before Midleton Town Council was disbanded, we had put €1.2 m aside for flood protection in the bottom end of the town. On the other side of the town, a study had been carried out and had predicted flooding. We know what is wrong. We have a 30 page report to tell us. We just need to use the €1.2m to help the traders and business people and to implement the recommendations of that report.
Cllr Hegarty (FG): Seconds Cllr Collin’s motion in relation to flood defences for Midleton. There are roads that are cut off at present and the Council should get bog mats on top of those roads to enable them to be used. Thanks the CE and Mayor for coming to Midleton. We have to get back to local knowledge. With regard to the N25, there are caves there which if they were cleaned and maintained would address the situation. TII were trying to raise the road by a meter. A seriously affected family were never underwater before and TII was trying to bulldoze over them while shoving the problem further over the road. There were some isolated incidents with narrow drains and culverts. Some landowners would not let us in to clean them out.
Cllr D’Alton: Agree 100% with all previous speakers in relation to drains needing to be cleared, ditches and rivers needing to be cleaned but this is something we shouldn’t even have to ask for. It should be part of general maintenance. But has major concerns about the calls for dredging of rivers. Rivers are not buckets. Buckets are static storage devices whereas rivers are dynamic. Water flows through them. How much depends on rainfall. How fast depends on gravity. Doesn’t matter how wide or deep the river is made between these restrictions, the volume of water the river can process is limited by the most restricted points the water has to flow past. But our landscape has been managed for fifty years and more according to the very opposite logic. Pinch-points on our rivers are, ironically, all man-made: bridges, weirs and towns. Dredging the silt build-up around these pinch points may help. And clearing river channels of dumping and poorly maintained river banks will help too. But dredging that involves digging or sucking out fine silt from the river bed is totally different. People who are in favour of dredging think that a bigger river will allow water to flow faster and more efficiently. Reality is that even if the capacity of the river is increased by 50%, that river can’t provide the same volume of storage as a floodplain. So dredging might help in the smaller, more regular flood events but it will not help in the less frequent major flood events. Worse, because dredging can speed up the flow of water in a river, it can increase the risk of flooding downstream. And dredging has to be repeated over and over or there will be no benefit to be gained from it at all. We need to address the decades of mismanagement of river systems. Over the past 50 years, we have done all we can to increase the volume and flow of water entering the rivers, to increase the volume of silt being carried to the rivers, to constrict the flow of water in the river channels and to remove floodplains. Rather than planting conifers on uplands which, when cut, leave compacted hard soil, we need to plant native tree species which soak 67% more water. Where we build, we create hard surfaces – roofs, driveways, roads, patios. Each industrial development should have an infiltration swale or a rain garden into which surface water is diverted. This will allow controlled release of rainwater into rivers. We need to stop building on floodplains. In relation to the consultant being employed to report on flooding in Midleton, when I was doing my post-graduate, my supervisor had a expertise in hydrology. He was commissioned to examine a site in Midleton and I, being his student went along with him. The site was a floodplain not far upstream of Midleton town centre. He recommended that the site would not be built on. It was a floodplain that was needed by the river. But within 5 years it was built on. The Owenacurra, having been deprived of its spill over area simply took the next easiest place to spill out, which was Midleton town centre.
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind): The roads in East Cork are shocking. Some are impassable. When the N25 was closed, these secondary roads were the only roads available. Would have liked more time to read the CE’s report. Acknowledges the massive community effort. People were out to help other people. Do we have a timescale on fixing these roads? Can you please bring this down to the Municipal District level so we can help with the prioritising of the roads which need to be fixed? Let them please contact local councillors to help them do this. This local knowledge is necessary.
Cllr J Murphy (Ind): Members were getting text updates from our engineer. The embargo is an awful headache for him. It is an issue that comes up for us but when you have a crisis it shows that lifting of the embargo would go a long way. The area engineer has a huge concern about parents putting children up on the flood barriers in Fermoy to have a look. Also youngsters are walking on barriers. To see the barriers being erected is quite a spectacle but one false move and whoever is on top of them is gone.
Cllr Conway (Ind): Reiterates what Cllr Doyle said. It took him one full day to find a gully which would solve a problem. While there was plenty of local support to do this, we still have two roads closed in Blarney. One has 26 residents living on it. We put hardcore on it to help those people using that road. How does the digger driver that broke ditches to drain the water stand? How do I stand as the person who spread the hardcore? What happens if an accident occurs now that the road is closed? Will those in the accident be covered by insurance?
Cllr Hegarty (FG): Walked the banks of the Owenacurra recently. Was shocked at the volume of debris and trees in the water and on the banks. Some of our rivers are operating at 50% of their capacity.
Cllr Creed (FG): Fully concurs with this. A relatively small job in Ballingeary was done on cleaning the river and this has made a huge difference.
(4 FF, 14 FG, 6 SF, 9 Ind present)
Mayor: Compliments everyone on their efforts during the crisis – staff, councillors, emergency teams. There is a severe shortfall of funding. We need €15 – 20m from the Department of Transport to do works on roads. Our staff are doing everything possible to make sure the roads can be travelled on. Acknowledges the money that has come from the Department of the Environment to date, although that will not be enough either. We have used €5m already in this Council alone.
- Knows the time left in the meeting is short but would like to respond to all Members comments as comprehensively as possible. Would have liked to have circulated the report earlier but it was not finished until 10.30pm last night. If it could have been done faster, it would have been. Members’ motions will be sent on to national level. They will pick up on the key issues such as funding, resources, infrastructural works, etc.
- We will not have a detailed schedule of works for another week or two.
- There still are 42 roads closed in 3 of 8 Municipal Districts. The others are still undergoing assessment.
- If your land is next to a watercourse, it is assumed that your land runs to the middle of the watercourse. Will confirm this. The CE read aloud some statutory responsibilities of owners with land beside a river.
- Cork County Council is not responsible for maintaining the waterways of Cork County. In emergency situations, we will do what we can. But we are not responsible for maintaining waterways free of obstructions, etc.
- Drainage – resources – we can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat. We will have a certain level of funding available to us. We have had to reduce our workforce to remain financially stable. That’s not going to change. There is a real challenge in terms of getting around to drainage works. We need to recruit staff for drainage works, but we can’t. We can take existing staff off potholes, etc. and put them on drainage. This should be considered at Municipal District level. There is no magic wand to this. Having this matter on the agendas of our Municipal Districts over the next few months is very important. We will be examining to see what the right mix here is. There are implications for other works if we focus entirely on drainage.
- Dredging is effective when done in conjunction with an overall plan for a watercourse. For dredging in small areas, it is ineffective, as Cllr D’Alton said. The OPW may also take this view. Will consider further the Inland Fisheries response. If planned flood relief schemes don’t go ahead, we will also have to consider what this Council’s response should be.
- The list of works needing to be done in watercourses must be itemised and funded. I have no revenue or capital funding for this. This is not an easy problem to solve. Has given no commitment that we are in a position to undertake interim works on the Bandon scheme. That commitment was given by the OPW. I had identified three things that might help when Minister Harris was down. But we as a Council do not have the resources to do them. Although licence was taken locally by some and it was assumed that because I recommended them, the County Council was going to deliver them.
- Yes, we would like more resources on the ground.
- The procedure for getting sandbags varies. Some people collect them, but we also distribute them. We gave out 31,000 sandbags during the December floods. We will have our own internal review and will look at these procedures then also. Doesn’t think there is any restriction on getting Red Cross assistance if one has already got sandbags.
- Is limited by Haddington Road in what overtime he can pay.
- The emergency line helped but yes, improvements can be made. 85% of the calls were taken and responded to. Average waiting time was 30 seconds. Rang it to test it and was kept waiting 45 seconds. We tried to put more resources on this. We already have suggestions on how to improve this. The emergency line took 1,500 – 1,600 calls. Sometimes people found it difficult to get through, but that wasn’t the norm. Some calls are dropped after 20 seconds if not answered.
- The flood barriers in Fermoy are owned by the OPW. There is a contractor in place to maintain them. Three of our staff were taken away from our normal duties to help erect them. We will have to review this.
- In Mallow, we erect all the flood barriers ourselves. Perhaps the OPW should use a contractor to erect the barriers.
- The N25 was a real challenge. Impacted primarily by groundwater challenges and infiltration of the underground cave network. We brought in the best equipment we could. Whitegate Oil Refinery helped pump water for over a mile. The more we pumped, the more the groundwater came up and up and up. There is a problem there with getting access from one particular landowner.
- The estates Cllr Sheppard referred to in Glanmire: Meadowbank was saved by Council staff but Copper Valley was flooded, although only once. A second flooding was averted by Cork County Council action.
- The executive held meetings over Christmas, the staff were on overtime dealing with the situation. The last thing anybody wanted was to call yet another meeting with councillors.
- Cork County Council is responsible for leading the coordination of the agencies on the ground. The Area Engineers liaise with the gardai, etc. While they do not have the role of coordinating the community response, there is very effective system in place in Skibbereen which we need to look at. The community is working very well with the local authority.
- Assistance for the families in Mallow can be responded to only by the Department of Social Protection.
- To Cllr Hayes – was not aware the OPW committed to providing funding for pumps. In relation to the Southern Star article, please could Cllr Hayes provide a copy of the Red Cross letter.
- Will personally ensure that staff is thanked. We will get a letter out from the Council, expressing the sentiments of Council.
- Will talk to the County Engineer about Curraheen and the Lee CFRAMS study.
- There is a very formal procedure to get the defence forces out. This procedure cannot be worked around. We used that. It is not possible to call them in through the normal emergency services. It has come through our offices with that formal protocol.
- The consultant’s report for Midleton is expected in a few days. It is about upstream remedial measures.
- Addressed all councillors individually. Agreed that the effects of spot dredging is very limited. It is good only as part of an entire scheme. But engineers will deal with this.
- We are undertaking our own review. The issues all Members have raised will be part of that review.
[g] VOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS
9. VOTES OF CONGRATULATIONS (if any)
Some congratulations were issued.
10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Cllr Linehan-Foley (Ind) asked about a date for the reception for the Special Olympics.
Sean O’Callaghan: We did contact them on several occasions and they could not arrange a date in January. The delay is not our fault.
* The remainder of the meeting was deferred.
[f] NOTICES OF MOTION
11. Councillor Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire:
“Go néilíonn an Chomhairle seo ar Bonneagar Iompair Éireann teacht os chomhair an Chomhairle, le míniú a thabhairt ar an Staidéar Bainistiú Éileamh don N40 atá idir lámha acu, agus ar na tuairiscí a deánadh le deánaí tar éis dóibh bheith cruinniú de choiste an Chomhairle Chathrach, go bhfuil BIE ag moladh tollaí a chur ar an bóthar, agus le nithe ábharach a phlé leo.
That this Council requests that Transport Infrastructure Ireland come before the Council, to outline the Demand Management Study currently being undertaken by them on the N40, and to respond to reports recently following their meeting a committee of Cork City Council, that TII is considering tolling the road, and to discuss related matters.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on the 14/12/15]
12. Councillor Kevin Murphy:
“That Cork County Council seeks an immediate meeting with the Minister Kelly, Minister for the Environment and Local Government and Minister Coffey, Minister for State, to address the serious anomaly that has arisen in regard to the limits on County Council’s House Purchase and City House Purchase Scheme.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on the 14/12/15]
13. Councillor Noel Collins:
“That this Council call on the Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform to consider an early change in the Inheritance Tax Laws.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on the 14/12/15]
14. Councillor Aindrias Moynihan:
“Lorgionn Comhairle Contea ar an Aire Coimirce Sóisioltí deireadh a chuir leis an slí go bhfuilid ag idirghealú de reir aos daoine, nuair ata an leibheal pinsean ranníocach á dheanamh amach acu.
That Cork County Council calls on the Minister for Social Protection to end the age discriminatory way the contributory pension levels are being calculated.”
[Deferred from Council Meeting on the 14/12/15]
15. Councillor Michael Collins:
” I call on the Minister for Finance to provide the funding for a number of urgent issues to safe guard our Primary Schools.
1. For an immediate and proper reduction in class sizes in 2015.
2. To give proper state funding for the running costs of our primary schools.
3. To allow funding in future budgets for teaching Principals to have one day a week off with substitute cover free from teaching. This would greatly improve the management of schools and benefit children.