Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Minister admits poor planning to blame for devastation

THE junior minister with responsibility for flood management has admitted poor planning is to blame for many homes beingdestroyed by water in recent days and said the Government will take a much more "rigorous" approach in future.

At last 600 families have had to flee their homes as they became submerged in flood water in the past week and many fear they won’t be able to return for Christmas, if at all.

But these houses "shouldn’t have been put where they were" in the first place, according to minister with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, (OPW) Martin Mansergh.

After visiting many parts of the country affected by the deluge, the Fianna Fáil TD for Tipperary South said: "It’s very clear that a substantial number of the homes effected and in certain cases estates, have been built in very recent times on flood plains."

Despite his party being in Government for the past 12 years when planning decisions were made, he said what has happened in the past week "graphically underlines that some homes, some of which can’t be lived in again, shouldn’t have been put where they were."

The Government has not yet estimated the overall cost of the damage caused by the worst flooding in living history.

But the Green Party leader and Environment Minister, John Gormley, claimed voters themselves have to take some responsibility for destruction caused by poor planning decisions because they kept re-electing councillors who made them.

"We had local elections and these people that engaged in reckless planning in many cases, you can look at it yourself around the country, topped the polls. So what does that say?" asked Mr Gormley.

He said voters made their decision and told politicians that such poor planning decisions were fine. "And very often when there was an intervention from the Government they said ‘don’t let these Dublin lads tell us what to do. This is what happens, that’s just the reality," he said.

Both ministers were speaking at the launch of a set of guidelines issued to local authorities and An Bord Pleanála, which will only allow development in areas at high or moderate risk of flooding in "exceptional circumstances".

Mr Gormley said he believes the events of the past week will make people "far more conscious of what constitutes good planning and what’s in the best interest of the community".

Mr Mansergh said he thinks there will be "a sea change of attitudes as a result of what we have experienced".

He said: "The attitude that might even have existed a couple of months ago, simply wont be tenable."

Mr Mansergh will face questions at the Oireachtas Environment Committee today on how the Government plans to provide financial assistance to those affected by floods.

Irish Times


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