Plans to create a permanent flood relief scheme for businesses affected by flooding have been criticised by the head of Cork Business Association.
It comes after cabinet approved a plan to create a permanent flood relief scheme for small businesses and community organisations this week.
The scheme will see payments of up to €5,000 for uninsured businesses and organisations whose premises are damaged by flooding.
Successful applicants to the scheme will receive a ‘quick’ payment of up to €5,000, with more serious cases to be assessed for further payment of up to €15,000.
Responding this week, Chief Executive of Cork Business Association Lawrence Owens criticised the scheme as a “sticky plaster solution” that failed to address the main issues for businesses in flood-prone areas. “My concern is that this is not dealing with the core issues,” he said.
“The Office of Public Works (OPW) has put in flood defences around the country, which has kept 20,000 businesses protected with a one in 100 year flood risk. We saw the success of it here in 2015, for example with Fermoy and Clonmel, who were protected during bad flooding, so it works.
“The OPW has a very good track record and a high standard of work, but at the moment in Cork we are totally exposed and many don’t have flood insurance.”
Mr Owens said insurance companies were “avoiding the issue” by not insuring businesses located in areas secured with flood defences. He cited the Flood Insurance Bill 2016 currently going through the Houses of the Oireachtas, which would prevent insurance companies from discriminating against home and business owners in low risk areas.
“Insurance agencies must come back to areas and offer businesses insurance at a reasonable rate,” he said.
“Small businesses who are protected from flooding should not be refused insurance just because they are from an area which has been flooded before.
“The message is simple – put in flood defences, then give people a good offer on insurance,” he said.
In November 2009 parts of Cork were left devastated by extreme flooding, which caused millions worth of damage to businesses and households.
The OPW’s controversial €6 million flood defence plan for Morrison’s Island in the city, part of its wider €140 million Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme, was temporarily halted last month after a European Court ruling.
Fianna Fáil TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony, whose native Bandon has been a victim of three severe floods in the last decade, said she supported the project but said it was “in no way compensation” for business in secure areas who were unable to obtain insurance.
“This does not take from the fact many uninsured businesses have had their properties massively devalued, owners who can’t retire or are forced to stay on,” the Cork South-West TD said.
“It is also a disincentive to those who want to set up in the town, who will take their ideas and jobs elsewhere.”
Source: Ryan O'Neill, Cork Independent