Local councillors in Midleton, Co Cork, designated a flood plain area for “town centre development”.
But Minister of State for Housing and Planning Jan O’Sullivan warned she will issue a directive, compelling the land be de-zoned to “open space/recreation”.
She has strongly advised Midleton Town Council to amend its 2013 town development plan to restore the site’s open space zoning
However, local mayor Ted Murphy said all councillors believed there was “little or no flood threat” at the site and they are “highly unlikely” to comply with the minister’s request.
The land at Mogeesha Watersedge is on the bank of the Owenacurra River, about 500 metres from the town centre.
It had been zoned in the early 2000s for town centre development. As a result of that decision, Mogeesha Holdings Ltd had installed flood channels as part of a long-term multimillion development project that already incorporates Aldi, Lidl, McDonald’s and other retail outlets, associated car parks, residential apartment blocks, a bridge and roadways.
In 2009, the company received planning permission for a further complex to include 267 apartments and new pathways linking nearby estates.
However, later that year, the Government’s new guidelines designated the area as “high flood risk”.
Ms O’Sullivan said by refusing to de-zone the area, Midleton Town Council had ignored flood risk advice from her department, the OPW and Cork County Council.
The local council unanimously insists there is minimal flood risk. Councillor Seán Buckley said the 2009 guidelines had been a case of “moving the goalposts” despite a high level of investment already expended.
The minister had further asserted the present zoning was not justified and claimed there was “ample necessary alternative lands available to accommodate town centre expansion”.
But dismissing her claims, Mr Murphy said Cork County Council’s historic refusal to discuss a town boundary extension rendered the disputed area crucial for town development.
The council has until this Friday to submit an amended plan, as requested, for public consultation.
In advance of a special meeting next week, Councillor Tom Cashman said he will not change his stance.
“We already voted on it and that should be the end of the story,” he said. “The developer did a great job, there is no flooding in the area and it’s a disgrace what is being done to him.”