Bray Town Council changed its view on the flooding risks of a major development in the floodplain of the river Dargle, for which An Bord Pleanála refused permission last week, according to the planning inspector's report.
In May 2006, town manager Des O'Brien said there was "an executable solution to the flooding problem in Bray, and that this is likely to be within the area that the application has shown for flood defences", the report says.
The inspector, Tom Rabbette, noted that this contradicted a letter from the council three months earlier stating that flood levels upstream of the bridge over the Dargle "will be affected by the proposed development, exacerbating flooding in that area".
His report also quoted objectors as saying that the involvement of consulting engineers O'Connor Sutton Cronin as lead consultants for both the river Dargle flood defence study and the proposed development "constitutes a fundamental conflict of interest".
Contacted yesterday, the firm had no comment to make. But a source said that the flood study was being overseen by a steering committee on which the Office of Public Works (OPW) is represented and it was being done by a separate team in the office.
Pizarro Ltd, a consortium led by developer Paddy Kelly, had sought approval for a major shopping centre with 51,925sq m of floor space, 5,771sq m of offices, 929 apartments and parking for 3,710 cars on the former site of Bray Golf Club, beside the river Dargle.
One of the main reasons given by An Bord Pleanála for refusing permission was that the golf club land is at risk of flooding and the proposed development - billed as being worth €2 billion - would be premature pending approval of the Bray Flood Defence Scheme.
Existing flood defences are seriously deficient, and there was extensive flooding in 1905, 1931, 1965 and 1986. Pizarro maintains that its scheme offered an opportunity to provide residents in all low-lying areas of the town with protection from future floods.
Bray Town Council had approved the Pizarro proposal even though its own development plan states that "no development shall be permitted . . . on the golf club lands until the council and the OPW are entirely satisfied" that it would not pose a new or increased flooding risk.
"Before there is any development . . . Bray Town Council shall obtain its own expert advice from a competent hydrologist and other experts and from the OPW and permission on the said site shall not be granted unless all reports indicate that the land is suitable for development."
The OPW, which is responsible for flood defences throughout the State, said in its submission on the Pizarro scheme that it "will create a new risk".
It was anxious to ensure that any development would be properly planned and protected so that it would not lead to flooding.
A spokeswoman for the town council said the flood defences study "would not have been expedited or carried out unless this development had arisen" because Bray was "very far down the pecking order" for such works, compared to Arklow or Clonmel.
She also pointed out that the council had laid down a condition that flood protection works would have to be completed in advance of the proposed
development and said O'Connor Sutton Cronin had been hired because the firm had done "excellent work" for Pizarro.
The spokeswoman added that the consultants would be completing an environmental impact statement and compulsory purchase order for the flood defence scheme within the next few weeks, and these would go directly to An Bord Pleanála for adjudication.
In rejecting the Pizarro scheme, the appeals board also cited traffic considerations, saying that it would have an adverse impact on the capacity of the N11, where traffic levels have risen dramatically since the completion of the last leg of the M50 in June 2005.
Daniel O'Connor, former Fingal county engineer and now a senior planning inspector with An Bord Pleanála, said in his report that the Pizarro development would add 1,600 vehicles per hour at peak times to existing traffic levels on the already overburdened N11.
© 2007 The Irish Times