6. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the progress of flood defences in an area (details supplied); the next step in the works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53473/17 asked on 14 Dec 2017)
Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: I have raised this issue of concern for Baile Bhuirne residents time and again in the House. They are concerned about flooding from the Sullane river anytime there is heavy rain. Residents need to see some progress. The issue has been ongoing since 2011, when we saw the initial designs, yet six years on, no works are in place. We need to see a plan of the works. The issue with the pearl mussel has already been set aside and resolved. There needs to be work and action at this point. We need to get an update on where flood defences for Baile Bhuirne stand.
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): The Baile Bhuirne and Ballymakeera scheme is currently at outline design stage and the preferred options for the scheme are being finalised.
A submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service was approved, allowing the scheme to progress to site investigations, at which point the results will inform the preferred options of the scheme. A surveying contractor was appointed in September 2017 to carry out a site investigation survey. On-site survey works were completed in November 2017 and the results of the site investigation will determine the preferred options and assist in developing realistic costings.
It is proposed to hold a second public information day followed by a public exhibition of the preferred scheme in the first half of 2018. When these stages are successfully completed and the proposals are broadly accepted by the public and stakeholders and the scheme is deemed technically, environmentally and economically viable, it will proceed to detailed design stage and secure formal confirmation by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under the Arterial Drainage Acts.
My office continues to liaise with Cork County Council and local representatives on the scheme. I assure the Deputy that my office has included provision for the estimated costs of the proposed works in its financial profile in the period up to 2021.
Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: The detailed design was due in 2016. That was after the National Parks and Wildlife Service had cleared everything with the pearl mussel. A second exhibition was due in spring 2017. Again, when works were under way in the summer, the exhibition was expected at the end of 2017. Is there now further slippage? When will we get to detailed design stage on this scheme? Has a cost-benefit analysis been conducted at this point?
Numerous agencies have looked at this, including the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Office of Public Works, the Department, fisheries organisations and various consultants. Even the Railway Procurement Agency has looked at the scheme, yet we seem to be nowhere near getting it built.
We are in much the same position as we were in 2011 and 2012 after the first exhibition. We need to see concrete works in place. Is the plan moving away from flood defences to digging in the river? Can the Minister of State confirm what kind of works are being lined up? Will we see the next exhibition in the spring in spite of the fact that it has slipped repeatedly?
Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran: As Deputy Moynihan is well aware, I was in Cork. I have visited most areas throughout the country, but I have visited Cork in particular because of this scheme. Since I came into this office in the past four and a half months I have made a high priority of several schemes, and this scheme is one of them. I assure Deputy Moynihan and the people that this is at the forefront and I intend to deliver on the scheme.
There were issues relating to the pearl mussel. We held extensive negotiations with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It has been criticised, but the service has worked closely with my Department. I am happy to inform Deputy Moynihan that the scheme will start, hopefully, towards the end of next year. Deputy Moynihan should trust me.
Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Tá sé fíorthábhachtach do mhuintir Bhaile Bhuirne agus do mhuintir Bhaile Mhic Íre go mbrúfaí chun cinn leis an gcosaint ar na tuilte ón Sulán. Is ábhar mórbhuartha é do mhuintir na háite agus teastaíonn uathu go mbrúfaí chun cinn leis gan a thuilleadh moille. Has a cost-benefit analysis been conducted on the scheme at this point? If not, why are we going so far down into it without doing that? Surely, if the analysis had been conducted earlier, it would raise the red flag and allow us to get on with it quickly. So many homes are impacted. The national primary road is impacted and the possibility of schools and businesses flooding also arises. It would really raise the profile if the cost-benefit analysis was carried out. It would be recognised as a high-profile scheme.
I acknowledge that the Minister of State has been around the Cork area. It is good that he is taking a hands-on interest. I am keen that the Minister of State would also take a hands-on interest in this scheme in Baile Bhuirne and push it on as quickly as possible. We have seen so many delays all the way through since 2011. The fresh water pearl mussel has not been a major issue for us in so far as we can live together. There are solutions that can work around that. We need to get the different agencies moving on it.
Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran: I know this is an important issue for Deputy Moynihan and the people he represents, especially the people in that area. I assure Deputy Moynihan that everything will be done to deliver on the scheme. I assure Deputy Moynihan that since I came into office, I have highlighted several schemes throughout the country, and I see this scheme as important. I have talked to the people who have made representations in this area. I want to deliver on this scheme for Deputy Moynihan and the people of the area.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We will move on now to Question No. 9, which is grouped with Questions Nos. 5 and 18.