Plans by environment minister John Gormley to restrict major developments on flood plains are under threat because there are no officially designated flood plains anywhere in the country.
Following recent floods throughout the country, Gormley said he would introduce new planning regulations which "essentially mean the end of any major construction on flood plains."
However, Tom Sherlock, an engineer with the Office of Public Works, said last week that while the OPW was working on predictive flood maps which would identify precise flood plains throughout the country, these would not be completed for another five or six years.
The first such official flood plain map covering the River Lee catchment area will be ready early next year. It will be followed later by similar flood predictive maps for the River Dodder in south Dublin and the River Suir in Waterford. The remainder should be ready by around 2013, Sherlock said.
These new maps will be colour coded which will indicate the flood risk running from one in 10 years (high) to one in 100 or 200 (low), he said.
The OPW does operate a publicly available flood map service on its website but this provides information on past flood events in a specific area. Though indicative of possible flooding in the future, it is not accurate, taking climate change into consideration.
In the meantime, Sherlock advised anybody who is thinking of buying a house or apartment to check with the OPW website to see if it is in an area that has been prone to flooding.
Guidelines for planning authorities with regard to proposed developments in areas at risk of flooding were produced last year but the Department said that Gormley's new regulations "are aimed at ensuring a more consistent rigorous and systematic approach to addressing flood risk management in the planning system through the comprehensive consideration of flood risk in preparing development plans."