A RETURN to one-off housing in rural areas could solve urban flooding, according to Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins.
Record torrential rain this month, which caused flooding problems in many parts of the country, should provide for a re-examination of planning policies that limit one-off housing, Mr Higgins said.
The Department of the Environment's Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines made it more difficult for potential homeowners to get planning permission to build one-off housing in rural areas, according to Mr Higgins.
He said that earlier this year, Minister for the Environment John Gormley published draft planning guidelines which would force developers and local authorities to build homes close to shops and schools.
Mr Higgins said it is often impossible for people in rural areas to obtain planning permission for housing.
As a result, many rural applicants are left with no other option but to move to urban locations to find somewhere to live.
"It stands to reason that if you have a huge volume of concrete structures in a confined area with tarmacadam roadways in the current era of climate change, then flooding will occur," Mr Higgins said.
He said a relaxation of planning regulations in rural areas would not alone lead to a greater and manageable population dispersal but would also restrict flooding because of soil permeability.
"Modern technology has the capability to cater for the problems previously caused by pollution from septic tank sewage disposal."
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the Minister would shortly publish guidelines that will ensure flood risk assessment becomes an integral part of the planning process. "Effective flood risk assessment within the planning process, good site selection and detailed design can ensure urban development proceeds without creating or exacerbating flood risk," he said.
In 2007, 30 per cent of residential plans granted permission were for single houses, usually located in rural areas, the spokesman said. "Ireland's planning authorities already operate a fairly flexible approach to rural settlement and urban and rural development trends are in proportion to the levels of population in urban and rural areas," he added.
The Irish Times