Monday, 12 July 2010

Flood threat homeowners take council fight to EU

A FAMILY made homeless as a result of the November floods crisis is set to tell the European Parliament that local council planners who allowed them to build on a flood plain are responsible for the scandal.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, 32-year-old Tom Flatley said he and his wife Noreen were given the green light by Galway county council planners to re-develop a dilapidated farm house at Ardrahan in 2002.

The area is a known flood plain, with previous homes being severely flooded in the territory.

However, despite the history of difficulties in the region, Galway County Council allowed the Flatleys to build on the land.

When the major floods struck Galway last November, the family’s home was submerged under almost a metre of water, forcing the young couple and their one-year-old son Zac to flee their home.

An Office of Public Works (OPW) report on the site said there is no possible solution to preventing further floodings, and that despite the council failing to explain the building is on a flood plain it is not their responsibility.

However, Mr Flatley has insisted an independent hydrologist has told the family defences such as a flood wall, an embankment, a surface water drainage system or a rising water pump could be put in place.

And as a result, he is to take his complaint over the inaction by the council to the European Parliament at the request of Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins in an attempt to force the local authority to take responsibility for the situation.

"The fact is they haven’t even looked into the possible solutions. This has put us under so much pressure but there is no support there for us," he warned.

"Since November, we’ve found out that this location has flooded repeatedly over the years, to such an extent that just 50 yards up the road from us a house had to be demolished because of flooding in 1995.

"We are not looking for compensation but we are looking for some protection so we will be making a petition to the European Parliament to put our case to them."

While Galway County Council insists planning for the one-off property was the responsibility of the family, the Flatleys, who have been living in rented accommodation since the flooding, said the situation is proof of a lack of support given to him and other flood victims since the crisis eight months ago.

"Minister Martin Mansergh came to our home in November to see the damage and promised we would be helped, but nothing’s happened.

"There is a €10 million fund supposedly there for humanitarian aid, but that is so wrapped up in red tape barely anyone can access it unless you meet specific qualifications.

"We could go back and fix the damage to our home, but this will inevitably happen again unless there are defences put in there."

Irish Examiner

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