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Planning system for flood defence schemes needs radical overhaul – Lombard

19th October 2023 - Senator Tim Lombard

Flood defence scheme applications across the country need to be processed more quickly to allow fast construction to combat weather bombs such as the deluge which hit this week, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard said today if planned flood defence schemes had been in place in some Cork communities, homes and businesses would have been saved from the water damage that ripped through their homes and properties.

“Currently what we have are a whole load of hurdles to be overcome before a flood relief scheme can be built in an area where it is clearly needed.

“These include red tape, constant delays, objections, judicial reviews and High Court challenges. It can go on for years, but the weather and climate doesn’t adhere to our slow and crippling mechanisms.

“Fine Gael wants to build stronger, safer communities. Areas which suffered serious flood issues have overcome them after defences were finally constructed – Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Fermoy, Douglas, Clonmel, Mallow. My office is in Bandon and the overriding feeling of my neighbours here on South Main Street today is one of great relief. They are all too familiar with the devastation of flooding in this town over many years. It is clear that flood defences work and are worth the investment for the people they serve.

“I’m working with the Office of Public Works Minister Patrick O’Donovan to ensure these schemes can be constructed more quickly. Minister O’Donovan has been very vocal on the obstacles placed in the way of the OPW in building these schemes and has said climate adaptation must become part of the planning strategy.”

Senator Lombard said the upcoming Planning Bill, currently being drafted, will help in addressing delays to proposed flood relief schemes and critical infrastructure across the island. A primary aim of the Bill is to have decisions made earlier and quicker and to reduce the number of objections.

“There has to be an open and transparent planning process, but it shouldn’t take umpteen years before we know if a flood defence scheme can go ahead or not. In the meantime, communities are continuing to suffer at the wrath of Mother Nature. Other schemes across the country are being delayed for a variety of reasons; including Midleton in east Cork, Ballina in Mayo, Blackpool on Cork city’s northside and Enniscorthy in Wexford,” Senator Lombard said.

“Those objecting need to look at their objections too and consider if they are reasonable. We need to seriously examine the right to object.

“If a piece of infrastructure impacts on local residents, it has to be considered, but someone in Wicklow should not be able to object to a scheme or planning application in Galway – that is ridiculous. This is how homes are being objected to too. We need robust legislation from the Housing Minister to ensure the planning authority can view and act on these spurious objections so that unnecessary delays are removed from the process.

“The consenting process for the delivery of major schemes needs to be addressed. It should be solely the provision of An Bord Pleanála who are tasked with the assessment.

“We need flood defence schemes built more quickly.  This week’s events have shown, at a horrific cost, what can happen when red tape hinders entire community concerns,” Senator Lombard said.

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