Differing views on 2009 riverside retail proposal are worth recalling
In our March 6th, 2009 edition, I wrote about a planning proposal to construct a shopping centre, discount foodstore and off-licence, along with 12 retail/commercial units and car parking for 468 vehicles in Carrick-on-Suir.
And the reason I’m recalling it is that that particular proposal was earmarked for a site directly opposite the Cláirin residential estate on the Clonmel Road, a field which was predominantly submerged in flood waters during Storm Frank.
Composed of grass, moss and rushes, the field is virtually split levelled between the lands closest the Clonmel Road and its lower, marshy segment nearer the river’s north bank. It’s a field which has historically filled with floodwater for decades.
As part of its application, Riussuir Developments Ltd had also hoped to construct a new bridge, and given the piledriving this would have entailed on both sides of the river bank, one suspects the recent flooding in the area would have proven even more catastrophic.
Given that the Limerick-based Riussuir wished to develop the eight acre site upriver from the town’s flood defences, residents and business owners in the area were naturally concerned with the prospect of such a construction within proximity of these walls.
In his appeal to the development at the time, Leslie O’Donnell wrote: “I find it difficult to understand how the Planning Authority could grant permission for this site which is more prone to flooding and cite flood risk as a reason for refusal for the adjoining site which is less likely to exacerbate the situation in times of flooding.”
The adjoining site which Mr O’Donnell refers to was a development proposed by Clonmel-based Flancare Distribution, which was also among the appellants to the Riussuir project.
The Flancare project also included the development of a new bridge, a crossing considered necessary given what had been envisaged for Coolnamuck during the boom years.
At the time, Carrick-on-Suir’s Town Development Plan stated
In the town’s latest development plan, it is stated that: “no proposed developments should be susceptible to flooding” and that “no proposed developments should cause or exacerbate flooding in areas outside the area of the proposed development itself”.
Having studied the Flood Risk Assessment presented to the Council, Town Clerk Michael O’Brien stated: “It is apparent from the findings presented in the Flood Risk Assessment that there is a quantifiable flood risk with developing the site. The Flood Risk Analysis acknowledges this and outlines measures to mitigate the risk.”
According to assessment authors JBA Consultants: “The hydraulic analysis has shown that provided the mitigation measures are implemented there should be no increase in flood risk upstream of the site and a negligible increase downstream, particularly when the characteristics of the Suir at the development site are considered.”
Given the findings of the assessment, Mr O’Brien considered “the principle of development on these flood prone lands is acceptable”.
During the February 2009 meeting of Carrick-on-Suir Town Council, Town Manager Pat Slattery said that the design of the proposed new shopping development would permit the car park to take floodwater during particularly poor weather.
Of course, where cars would park in the event of a significant swell was a legitimate concern for residents in both Cláirín and Tracey Park at the time.
The flood assessment’s research stated that it would take 33,000 cubic metres of the Suir’s excess to flood the field in its current condition.
“This sounds like a lot of water,” Mr Slattery told Councillors during the February Council meeting.
“But when you spread it across the entire span of the river it would be equal to three millimetres, which is only a ripple. The mitigation measure the planners required are to ensure the site will continue to flood.”
The Riussiur proposal won with local political support from all but one Town Councillor – Fianna Fáil’s Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, who was among those who have appealed the ruling to An Bord.
“This development is smack in the middle of our flood plain in Carrick-on-Suir and we have in place flood relief walls to protect us from (floods),” she wrote in her second appeal submission. “My worry is (for) the future of the town.”
Labelling Mrs Cooney-Sheehan’s concerns as “pumped up” scaremongering, Labour Councillor Denis Landy said that opportunities to create significant new employment in a town don’t come around too often.
Addressing the February 2009 meeting, Cllr Landy said that the Riussuir development brought with it the potential of 300 permanent new jobs and a further 250 during the construction phase.
While acknowledging the environmental problems that the town’s Tannery experienced, Cllr Landy added: “Many of us in the town were glad to be fed, reared and educated out of the Tannery.
“The same issue is at play here today. Do we want 300 people to get jobs and 250 more work in construction or do we want scaremongering and building a campaign around falsehoods?”N24S1Pic2
In response, Cllr Cooney-Sheehan, who has won vocal support for her stance from (then) Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath, said she wished Cllr Landy had demonstrated the same passion for new local employment “when Heatons wanted to come [to Carrick] and create 45 jobs”.
She added: “There are people living on both sides of the river who have exactly the same concerns as I do regarding any development on this flood plain. And highlighting those legitimate concerns does not amount to a campaign.
“I don’t want the floodplains interfered with at all and the idea that this proposed shopping centre’s car park could accommodate flooding is ludicrous.
“We can all do flood assessments on paper but nobody knows what nature is going to throw at you. Why are we tampering with nature again [when] we have so many other sites in the town?”
The Riussuir proposal was torpedoed by An Bord Pleanála on the basis that the development was to be constructed on a floodplain and would prove detrimental to similar businesses that were already operating in Carrick town centre.
In April 2011, Denis Landy was elected to Seanad Éireann on the Administrative Panel. At the 2014 Local Elections, Cllr Cooney-Sheehan lost her set in the realigned Carrick-on-Suir Municipal District.
And in late December 2015, at the height of Storm Frank, the site which Riussuir wished to develop a shopping centre on in Carrick-on-Suir was largely under floodwater.