Council concern over flood risk reports

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CountyHall4MEMBERS of Limerick County Council‘s Planning and Development committee spent two hours debating a proposal to create an approved list of flood risk assessors last week.

Councillors called for the list to be drawn up pending the availability of the final Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) report which will address the reduction and management of flood risk in Ireland.

Committee chairman Cllr Stephen Keary (FG) said there was a lot of “ambiguity” surrounding the issue of flood risk assessment and claimed flood reports were being rejected by the Council in some cases. People applying for planning permission to build homes were being charged up to €1,000 for independent flood risk assessments.

He claimed that in some instances people were being told by the Planning Department that the reports were unsatisfactory, and  were then charged up to €2,000 by JBA, an environmental, engineering and risk company, for new reports.

Other councillors feared costs for flood risk assessments could be as high as €6,000 in some cases.

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Cllr Michael Collins (FF) confessed that he had “no faith in JBA”.

Cllr Jerome Scanlon (FG) said he believed that consumers were being blackguarded and he called for Water Services to take the issue by the “scruff of the neck” and either get an approved list of assessors or get rid of them altogether.

“We are rubbing more fat meat on a fat pig’s tail,” he added.

Tony O’Shea, a member of the planning committee representing the construction sector, said there was “too much ducking and diving”.

“Ye haven’t all the answers,” he told local authority officials. “In fact”, he said, “ye have damn few of them.”

Committee member and architect Patti O’Neill said a more holistic approach was needed.

“You can’t build in rural Ireland anymore with these constraints,” she added.

Cllr Pat Fitzgerald, proposed that CFRAM come to Limerick to give a presentation to council members.

Calling for a “precautionary approach”, Director of services Gerry Sheeran commented: “Our approach is for the community good and to protect consumers. Where there is a risk of flooding you should not apply for planning permission but if you are prepared to go further then you must employ a flood risk assessor.

“We would say if there’s a risk or possibility of flooding on a site in the next 1,000 years, then don’t build on it”, he declared.

He told councillors he would look at the issues involved in putting together an approved list of flood risk assessors and report back in the next two weeks.