Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Gormley says development land vulnerable to flood may be 'dezoned'

THE GOVERNMENT and local authorities will move to “dezone” lands that have been rezoned for development on flood plains or where there is a vulnerability to flooding.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley said yesterday that more robust planning laws and guidelines would ensure a clampdown on development in areas where flooding was liable to occur.

He was speaking during the launch of his department’s new guidelines on flood-risk management in the planning process.

The new rules are aimed at ensuring a more consistent approach to planning to avoid a repeat of the damage caused by flooding this month.

A new Planning Bill, currently going through the Seanad, will also include more robust powers to oblige local authorities to implement planning guidelines, and will also require more comprehensive flood-risk assessments in areas where there is a risk of flooding.

It will also be the first piece of planning legislation that will compel local authorities to take climate change into account during the planning process.

Speaking at the launch of the guidelines, Mr Gormley said while councils could “dezone” lands previously zoned by them, he also had the powers to do so under certain sections of the planning laws and intended to use them if necessary.

The Minister said some of the councillors who were engaged in the most reckless planning had topped the poll in the local elections last June. “People have made the choice at local elections to elect people, some of whom were record rezoners.”

He said he had to balance the competing rights of local democracy and good planning. “I am trying to do it as best I can. I have been accused of being draconian. I hope that local councils will look at the areas that are vulnerable to flooding. Beyond that I can insist that dezoning can take place.”

The new guidelines require the avoidance of development in areas at risk of flooding. They also include new provisions for flood-risk assessment being prepared ahead of any decisions on planning applications or planning appeals. The document follows on from a draft publication earlier this year.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Martin Mansergh said it was clear a substantial number of homes were affected and estates have been built in very recent times on flood plains or where there was a series risk of flooding. We have to prevent that in the future.”

Dr Mansergh predicted a big change in attitude. “Attitudes that we witnessed even a couple of months ago will simply not be tenable any more.”

Both Ministers claimed that there were record sums being spent on flood relief and mitigation, but admitted that only €38 million of the €43 million allotted for works was spent this year.

Dr Mansergh said local objections and disputes and archaeological considerations had led to delays in some projects and the under-spend.

He insisted the money would be carried over into next year as part of a multi-annual budget.

Irish Times


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