The Voluntary Home Relocation Scheme has had few takers, with just three applications being received locally, the council revealed this week.
This is despite the fact that up to 15 houses were identified locally as potentially qualifying for the scheme.
The scheme is targeted at those homeowners whose main or family home flooded between December 4, 2015, and January 13, 2016.
The Office of Public Works (OPW ) decision to offer voluntary relocation applied to homes deemed unsustainable due to their flood risk, and for which there are no other known or possible alternative protection or mitigation measures.
The issue was raised by Fine Fáil councillor, Frankie Keena, at October’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District. Cllr Keena said those that have applied have been “left in limbo”, with little to no communication coming from the OPW since the July 28 deadline for applications. He added that he had contacted the OPW, who said they are liaising with the local authority on the matter.
Director of Services, Barry Kehoe, said the OPW did request the addresses of the homes that were breached by water during the last flooding event, 2015-2016. However, he said that information was provided and that any delays in the process are of no fault of the council. He added that he understands the OPW may be investigating whether there is a better option for certain homes rather than relocation.
Speaking yesterday (Wednesday ), Minister of State for the OPW, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, said: “We have 69 expressions of interest in the country, but there has been a very small uptake in Westmeath, there is no point is saying otherwise. That, I think, is down to the fact that people are hoping the work we are doing on the Shannon will decrease the levels of the water. As well, most of the people living in rural Ireland have no interest in moving into the urban areas, and they have told me that.
“Some people have come directly to me with interest and others have applied, there are a few names in the pot that are interested in Westmeath. My Department is liaising with the local authority and working through applications. Where we can help these people, we will. Where we cannot, I have something coming forward shortly in relation to planning within floodplains. I am hoping to announce something that will help people that bit further.”