Planning guidelines for local authorities
There are many areas in Ireland, including towns and cities that are already at risk from periodic flooding. The flood risk management programme of the OPW, including the construction of flood relief schemes, will help to reduce this existing risk. It is however critical to avoid ever increasing risks to people, property and the environment that we do not inadvertently create new risks or exacerbate existing risks.
Development in flood plains can itself be at risk from flooding, as well as creating or increasing risks up and downstream, while development anywhere within a catchment can increase the rainfall runoff rates and volumes through paving over of previously permeable surfaces and accelerating drainage. The role that good planning has in avoiding and reducing such risk was recognised in the Report of the Flood Policy Review Group, which was approved by the Government in 2004.
The OPW, in partnership with the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, have produced Planning guidelines for local authorities, that set out a transparent and robust framework for the consideration of flood risk at all stages within the planning process, including the preparation of plans and the preparation and assessment of planning applications.
These guidelines require the planning system at national, regional and local levels to:
- Avoid development in areas at risk of flooding, particularly floodplains, unless there are proven wider sustainability grounds that justify appropriate development and where the flood risk can be reduced or managed to an acceptable level without increasing flood risk elsewhere;
- Adopt a sequential approach to flood risk management when assessing the location for new development based on avoidance, reduction and mitigation of flood risk; and
- Incorporate flood risk assessment into the process of making decisions on planning applications and planning appeals.
The new Guidelines were issued to planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála under Section 28 of the 2000 Planning and Development Act, which requires them to have proper regard to the principles and procedures of these guidelines in carrying out their functions.