The inclusion of flood-related measures in the new legislation that the Government has agreed to prioritise for enactment before year end has been welcomed by Longford-Westmeath Independent TD, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.
Deputy Moran said the announcement follows concerted efforts by Minister of State, Seán Canney, to bring flooding issues to the forefront in the planning process.
Minister Canney convened a cross-government group of Ministers and officials to explore ways to accelerate the timeline for delivery of flood-related works. The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney, undertook to explore the scope for reviewing the planning code with a view to identifying ways to streamline regulatory requirements from a planning perspective.
As a result, the General Scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions ) Bill 2016 now provides for new screening arrangements for environment impact assessments (EIA ) for flood-related works and is aimed at streamlining the process of determining planning consent for the undertaking of such works. In tandem with the new EIA screening provisions in the General Scheme, it is proposed to review the mandatory EIA thresholds for flood related works from their currently low level in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Deputy Moran said he welcomed the proposed legislation as a significant step in accelerating the pace of delivery of necessary flood relief schemes by the OPW and the local authorities.
“The overall combined effect of these proposed streamlining changes should mean a reduction in the number of planning applications and mandatory EIAs for flood related works, thereby enabling more such works to be undertaken much more speedily than at present,” he said.
The Government is providing €430 million for flood risk management measures as part of its overall Capital Investment Plan 2016–2021. This builds on the investment of €460 million already made since 1995 by the OPW, which includes the completion of 37 major flood defence schemes, the maintenance of more than 11,500 kilometres of river channels and some 800 kilometres of embankments. This has provided benefit to 265,000 hectares of agricultural land and the funding of more than 500 localised projects under the Minor Works and Coastal Protection Scheme.