AKC News // Planning rules seek to end building on flood plains

New draft planning guidelines on flooding have been jointly published for public consultation by Minister for the Environment John Gormley and Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Dr Martin Mansergh.

The 90-page document, entitled The Planning System and Flood Risk Management: Consultation Draft Guidelines for Planning Authoritiesis aimed at ensuring "a more consistent, rigorous and systematic approach to fully incorporate flood risk assessment and management into the planning system".

"Building on a flood plain is something we want to see ending," Mr Gormley told reporters at Leinster House yesterday.

The draft guidelines also draw attention to the increasingly frequent trend of paving over entire residential garden areas to provide off-street car parking and the flood implications of this. The guidelines contain a commitment by the Department of the Environment to review the exempted development regulations to ensure that only paving complying with sustainable drainage principles will be exempted under the exempted development provisions of the planning Acts.

In considering planning applications for new developments or extensions to residential development which includes significant hard surfacing, the guidelines recommend that planning authorities should attach conditions to any grants of planning permissions which limits the extent of hard surfacing and/or requires the use of permeable paving or surfaces such as gravel or slate chippings.

Commenting yesterday, Mr Gormley said: "In relation to paving, yes, hard surfaces do result in run-off but there are sensible compromises, you can use gravel or some sort of permeable material, maybe some sort of slate or whatever, that can actually solve the problem so that you have soakage and you don't get that sort of run-off which is resulting in flash-flooding."

The guidelines have been prepared in response to the recommendations of the National Flood Policy Review Group and a departmental statement said they were "focused on providing for comprehensive consideration of flood risk, both in preparing regional plans, development plans and local area plans, and in determining applications for planning permission in line with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development".

The draft guidelines will require the planning system at national, regional and local levels to: avoid development in areas at risk of flooding; adopt a sequential approach to flood risk management and guide development away from areas that have been identified as being at risk through flood risk assessment; incorporate flood risk assessment into the process of making decisions on planning applications and planning appeals.

The draft guidelines are available to view and download from the department's website: www.environ.ie .

The closing date for receipt of comments and submissions is 4pm on Friday, November 14th, 2008.

These guidelines, when finalised, will have statutory force under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. In this regard, the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill which the Minister is preparing to bring forward and publish "after Christmas" will include provisions to ensure planning authorities fully comply with guidelines.

"The most important point here is that we now have to have what we call flood risk assessment and it has to be built into all planning strategies, all planning decisions and that is something I think that is progressive, something that most people will welcome and certainly from my point of view I want to see this backed up as well by legislation," Mr Gormley said.

Dr Mansergh said: "This is about prevention rather than cure. Obviously building defences is very expensive, we want to be sure in the future that we are not exacerbating the problem by poor planning decisions or, alternatively, cancelling out the effects of defences."

Labour's environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said: "There is a problem with planning guidelines, in that councillors only have to have regard to them when making rezoning decisions.

"This means councillors can ignore the guidelines and also means that they can continue to rezone flood plains. There is a need for new legislation in addition to these guidelines."

Source: DEAGLÁN DE BRÉADÚN, Political Correspondent in The Irish Times

Date : 24-09-2008