Cork County Council has, however, warned town councillors in Midleton they face being personally liable for future flood damage if they act contrary to a ministerial recommendation.
But one councillor described the warning as a form of council bullying.
County council planners had advised the Midleton council to zone, for open space development, the flood plain at The Mogeesha in the Watersedge area close to the River Ballinacurra.
The site is currently zoned under a 2008 plan for town centre development.
In 2009, planning permission for a 267-apartment complex was awarded to developer Mogeesha Holdings. The area already houses retail outlets Aldi and Lidl.
Shortly after the planning permission, new government guidelines designated the area as high flood risk.
However, Midleton Town Council said channelling works already undertaken by the developer had greatly alleviated the flood risk.
Local councillors believe the present zoning enhances town development amid a refusal by the county council to grant a boundary extension. They also argued associated roadways would enhance access between the town centre and estates in the Watersedge area.
At a hearing on the Amendments to the Draft 2013 Town Development Plan, Cork County Council senior planners Andrew Hind and Patricia Griffin, supported by town manager Sharon Corcoran, cited evidence from the EPA and from an OPW-commissioned survey that the area had “a high probability” flood rating.
The land had flooded in Sept 2011 for the first time since 1989 but councillors said it had not been serious.
The planners advised that failure to dezone could endanger lives and that the councillors could be personally liable for future flood damage.
Cllr Seán Buckley said the county council had been “happy to take the developer’s money” but now wanted the town council to “move the goalposts” on its behalf.
He said it was a form of “bullying” by the county council and dismissed its arguments as speculative.
In rejecting the county council’s direction, Mayor Ted Murphy said a fresh planning application would likely be needed in 2015 and the issue could then be reviewed under the present zoning conditions.