Flood minister hits out at planning system where 'every Tom, Dick and Harry' can object

Patrick O’Donovan asked: “Are we going to continue to pretend that the current system works or are we going to say no, you need to prove a connection to a place in Ireland to object?"
Flood minister hits out at planning system where 'every Tom, Dick and Harry' can object

(Left to right) At the unveiling of a plaque to mark the completion of the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme in Cork is Jim Casey, OPW, head of Flood Risk Management; Ann Doherty, chief executive of Cork City Council; Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform; Cork Lord Mayor Cllr. Deirdre Forde, Patrick O'Donovan, Minister of State for the OPW, and Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence. Picture: Denis Minihane

The minister with responsibility for flood defence says he had no problem funding schemes – the problem is a planning system from a bygone era that allows every Tom, Dick and Harry to object for just €20.

Patrick O’Donovan was speaking in Cork on Monday where he attended a ceremony to mark the completion of the Douglas flood relief scheme a decade after the suburb's town centre was swamped in a devastating flood.

His comments also came on the 13th anniversary of the 2009 Cork city flood but where the Lower Lee Flood relief scheme has yet to be submitted for ministerial consent. 

Separately, flood defence works on the city’s Morrison’s Island have been delayed by a legal challenge, a flood relief scheme in Blackpool has been delayed by a separate legal challenge after the State conceded that more public consultation was required, and another large flood relief scheme in Glanmire has been delayed by soaring costs.

Mr O’Donovan said such delays are unacceptable.

“The process for delivery of key pieces of infrastructure, whether that's energy transmission, energy generation, roads, rail, climate adaptation, has resulted in years of delays in projects all over the country and spiraling costs,” he said.

The wildflowers and herb garden in Douglas Community Park which have been developed as part of the flood defence scheme public realm improvement works. Photo: Tara de Montfort
The wildflowers and herb garden in Douglas Community Park which have been developed as part of the flood defence scheme public realm improvement works. Photo: Tara de Montfort

“Are we going to continue to pretend that the current system works or are we going to say no, you need to prove a connection to a place in Ireland to object, you need to have locus standi?

“People the other side of the country objecting to things that are 200 or 300kms away from them, is in my estimation, of a bygone era and really smacks of a system that is designed not to be able to deliver.” 

He said while there was a lot of talk at Cop27 about reducing emissions, there was little talk about climate adaptation in large cities, and even if we reduced our emissions to zero tomorrow morning, sea levels will continue rising.

(Left to right) Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Deirdre Forde; Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Patrick O'Donovan; Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, and Senior engineer on the project, Conor O'Leary at the unveiling of the plaque for the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan
(Left to right) Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Deirdre Forde; Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Patrick O'Donovan; Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, and Senior engineer on the project, Conor O'Leary at the unveiling of the plaque for the Douglas Flood Relief Scheme. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan

He also said his department is not opposed to the construction of tidal barriers to protect large Irish cities, but he said a tidal barrier in Cork Harbour will do nothing to protect the city from river or rainfall flooding events.

"Cork is a low-lying city and ultimately will face the same challenges as places like the Rhine delta in the Netherlands, places like Venice and London, but it has to be done in a progressive way," he said.

"It is absolutely something that's on our radar, and not just for Cork. We have large city centres like Dublin, Galway, Limerick that need protection, and we're up for every suggestion, and we'll consider every suggestion.

The wildflowers and herb garden in Douglas Community Park which have been developed as part of the flood defence scheme public realm improvement works. Photo: Tara de Montfort
The wildflowers and herb garden in Douglas Community Park which have been developed as part of the flood defence scheme public realm improvement works. Photo: Tara de Montfort

"This nonsense that we don't consider suggestions, it's just fake news. We do consider everything. 

"But we have to consider it in the context of what is an engineered solution."

The Douglas scheme, which involved work to improve the flow of the Ballybrack and Grange streams, the construction of flood walls and embankments, and the creation of new public plazas and public realm, provides protection to over 200 homes and businesses.

It is one of eight OPW flood relief schemes completed across Cork, with more than 50 completed nationwide – schemes the OPW said protect more than 11,900 properties, with an economic benefit to the State in damage and losses avoided, estimated to be in the region of €1.9bn.

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