13. Environmental Quality
The provision of sustainable physical infrastructure and improvement and protection of the quality of the city’s water bodies, while managing flood risk, is of key importance in dealing with the environmental challenges facing the city. The City Council seeks to ensure that water, air quality and waste management accord with EU and national legislation and policy. While Irish Water has responsibility for provision of wastewater and water infrastructure since 2014, Cork City Council continues to provide day to day delivery of service and management of the Capital Programme in partnership with Irish Water under a Service Level Agreement.
Air quality standards are set in legislation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having the lead role in monitoring the level of various air pollutants against these standards and local authorities having responsibility for addressing local instances of air pollution. The EPA are also the designated National Authority for environmental noise while local authorities have a role in preparing Noise Action Plans for urban agglomerations such as Cork City.
The management of infrastructural requirements and issues relating to energy supply and telecommunications, also ensures the city will develop in a sustainable way. While issues relating to climate change and mitigation underpin all facets of this section, climate change is dealt with specifically earlier in this Issues Paper.
13.2. Strategic Context
The National Planning Framework (NPF) and the Regional Spatial & Economic Strategy (RSES) contain a number of over-arching goals and objectives, setting the context for Environmental Quality issues to be addressed through the City Development Plan.
Chapter 9 of the NPF Realising our Sustainable Future, recognises that the “key national environmental challenges include the need to accelerate action on climate change, health risks to drinking water, treating urban waste water, protecting important and vulnerable habitats as well as diminishing wild countryside and dealing with air quality problems in urban areas”.
The RSES includes a large number of Regional Policy Objectives, just some of which are highlighted here:
- The need for local authorities to continue to work with the Office of Public Works to implement the Flood Risk Management Plans and address existing and potential future flood risks (RPO 89);
- To support the development of a Regional Renewable Energy Strategy (RPO 98);
- To support innovative initiatives that develop the circular economy through implementation of the Regional Waste Management Plan for the Southern Region 2015-2021 and its successor (RPO 107);
- It is an objective that an Ecosystem Services approach will be incorporated into the preparation of statutory land use plans in the region (RPO 110);
- To build on Smart Cities initiatives and seek investment in broadband, fibre technologies, wireless networks and integrated digital infrastructures (RPO 134)
- To support the implementation of Irish Water Investment Plans and seek such plans to align the settlement strategy in the RSES and to ensure Local Authority Core Strategies demonstrate compliance with DHPLG Water Services Guidelines for Planning Authorities and demonstrate phased infrastructure led growth (RPO 208) and
- To support strategic wastewater treatment infrastructure investment and facilitate the separation of foul and surface water networks (RPO 215).
13.3. Achievements/What’s Happening?
- Cork City Council operates a major water treatment plant located on the Lee Road on behalf of Irish Water. Approximately 43.9 million litres (9.8 million gallons) of raw water are extracted daily from the River Lee to supply the plant. A major upgrade to the site is underway and expected to be completed in 2021.
- A Drainage Area Plan (DAP) for Cork City Agglomeration is currently being developed by Irish Water.
- A feasibility study for upgrades to the Carrigrennan Wastewater Treatment Plant to allow for compliance with its waste licence and to cater for expected future population growth is in progress.
- A number of Flood Relief capital projects are currently being progressed:
- Lower Lee (Cork City) Flood Relief Scheme (€140M)
- Morrison’s Island Public Realm Improvement and Flood Defence Scheme (€6M)
- River Bride (Blackpool) Flood Relief Scheme (€20M)
- Glashaboy (Glanmire) Flood Relief Scheme (€8.5M)
- Douglas Flood Relief Scheme (€5.5M)
- Togher Culvert Works, Service Diversions and Public Realm Enhancement (€6.5M)
- The Cork Agglomeration Noise Action Plan is currently in preparation to act as a means of managing environmental noise, and to meet the aim of the END Directive of preventing, and reducing where necessary, environmental noise.
- Cork City Council has four air monitoring stations at Heatherton Park, South Link Road, UCC Distillery Fields and CIT that provide live, continuous air quality data. In addition, a number of air quality sensors from PurpleAir have been installed at locations across Cork City.
13.4. Challenges/ Opportunities:
- Addressing the challenges of climate change through proper management of environmental infrastructure;
- Water quality and resource management issues (flood risk management; consideration of River Basin Management Plan objectives, sustainable water management solutions such as SuDs and green roofs);
- Efficient and sustainable use and development of water resources and water services infrastructure;
- Management of noise where it is likely to have significant adverse impacts on health and quality;
- Adopting measures to ensure sustainable waste management, including the employment of principles relating to the circular economy (prioritising prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery) and
- Adopting measures to improve air quality.
13.5. Key Questions
- What are the most important “environmental quality” issues facing Cork City?
- How do we move towards a more equitable, carbonneutral city?
- How can we best deal with health risks to drinking water and comply with the Water Framework Directive on water quality?
- How do we enhance water conservation and reduce wastage?
- How do we reduce surface water run-off to help prevent flooding (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), green roofs etc)?
- How do we best address the challenges of flooding?
- What renewable energy sources could we utilise in the city e.g. smartgrids, bioenergy, district heating?
- How do we increase the potential for sustainable local/ community energy projects and micro generation to both mitigate climate change and to reduce fuel poverty?
- What policies could we use to comply with the principles of the circular economy i.e. prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery?
- What practical methods can we use to improve air quality?