New planning guidelines from the Environment Minister John Gormley will not prevent councillors from zoning flood plains for development, Labour TD Michael D Higgins has warned.
Dep Higgins said the guidelines will give better guidance to local authority officials but when it comes to councillors, the guidelines will not be binding.
“Ultimately members of local authorities will still be fully entitled to vote for or against a particular rezoning,” said Dep Higgins. “In other words, the guidelines will not prevent councils from making decisions to allow houses to be built on flood plains.”
Dep Higgins believes more concrete action needs to be taken to prevent the risk of flooding the county has endured in recent times.
“I have sought over the past number of years, particularly the last year following the terrible flooding suffered in Oranmore, to alleviate the terrible difficulties which inevitably follow on from decisions to build on flood plains,” he said.
Dep Higgins said what is needed is the enactment of legislation to allow for the designation of certain lands as protected from housing development. Such legislation could be used where lands carry such a high risk of flooding to make it too costly or to difficult to put in place necessary flood relief and management measures.
“Flooding is always going to be with us,” said Dep Higgins, “but with a strategic approach to its management, sustained capital investment and sustainable planning and development, its impacts on our communities can be minimised.”