29 Jun 2022

Column: One word in Ballyhale plan tells whole story

Darren Hassett writing in this week's Kilkenny People

Kilkenny Kilkenny Kilkenny

The diversion of flow will go right by the Ballyhale Shamrocks dressing rooms

The flood relief plans for Ballyhale - and their impact on the local GAA club - have left people incredulous.

How could such plans be drawn up as an outline design to even begin with?

Ballyhale-Shamrocks is almost 50 years old and is based in the village since 1990, but one of the biggest flood mitigation plans in the history of the State (€1 billion over 10 years), we all saw the reports, has cast that history aside and decided to run a river straight throw the club’s pitches.

Somehow, amidst all the planning, funding and expertise, they’ve thrown in this clanger and it’s hitting a small village in north Kilkenny.

These type of proposals - which are causing consternation locally - are not unique to Ballyhale.

Just last week in Freshford, we heard Cllr Michael McCarthy saying that the Office of Public Works, need to go back to the drawing board for their plans there as they actually won’t impact on flooding in certain areas.

You can see a trend starting to emerge.

But one word in the Ballyhale flood relief plans tells the whole story. Chairman John Kennelly quite rightly pointed out a statement that, as he told me last week, “stood straight out at him”.

The Flood Risk Management Plan notes that consultations and submissions provided additional information including the fact that the proposed diversion channel is directed through “part of the local GAA football pitch”.

And that’s it! A football pitch? Perish the thought in a village that has won six All-Ireland club hurling titles. Perish the thought in a club that has turned out some of the greatest hurlers this country has ever had the privilege to watch play the real “beautiful game”.

The OPW confirmed that Irish based engineering company RPS undertook the study on behalf of the OPW.

John correctly rebuffed the “football” remark in the plans and said: “Somebody obviously never even looked cause the proposal calls it a football pitch and we’re a hurling club.”

The flood plan goes on: “The proposed route of any proposed measure would therefore require local consultation during further project-level assessment. However none of the submissions resulted in a change of proposed measure.”

That’s a key point too. The OPW noted the submissions, they noted that the club would be affected, but none of this resulted in them reassessing the design for the publication of the plan.

It begs the question, what happens to this plan if local representatives don’t approve it, what happens this plan, which has and will come at some cost to the taxpayer, if the diversion flow needs to be radically redirected?

Is it a case of back to the drawing board and wait for the next ten-year programme to come along? And this is just one plan, in one village and look at the issues it has thrown up.

The Minister is making €14 million available to 19 local authorities to lead on delivery of 31 of these schemes, including Ballyhale, each estimated to cost less than €1 million.

Ballyhale’s plan is estimated to cost €430,000 and will protect 25 properties when completed. Maybe that’s the reason for the chosen route, because the OPW do mention other options.

The plan says, “The cost of the proposed measure was also significantly lower and therefore has a higher benefit cost ratio than other potential measures which were investigated”.

The proposal is in black and white now and the Government hope that progression can commence soon. How they envision this with such glaring public consultation issues on the horizon, I don’t know.

Either way, proud club men and women of Ballyhale-Shamrocks will no doubt prove in the coming months that might is not always right.

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