Concerns that flood-free areas will pay price for insurance

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

CONCERNS have been raised that home-owners and businesses will foot the bill in terms of insurance cover and planning applications as a consequence of their location being highlighted on the preliminary flood risk assessment.

CONCERNS have been raised that home-owners and businesses will foot the bill in terms of insurance cover and planning applications as a consequence of their location being highlighted on the preliminary flood risk assessment.

However, according to Limerick County Council nothing is set in stone and the status of areas highlighted can be changed if it’s established that the area is not a flood risk.

During a presentation to a transportation and water services strategic policy committee meeting, Cllr Noel Gleeson spoke of his fear that areas were highlighted as being at risk of flooding without adequate evidence.

“They just put in, willy-nilly, stripes all over the place. It didn’t come to our attention until people applied for planning permission in these areas,” said Cllr Gleeson of the areas highlighted on the maps which form part of the preliminary flood risk assessment.

“I wouldn’t wish to see anyone flooded because I know an awful lot about it ... but there are areas that will never be flooded and if they apply for planning permission they have to do this assessment and that’s going to cost money. If there are private houses in those areas that will never be flooded they will have a problem with insurance on their houses,” he said.

Cllr Liam Galvin said he agreed that a flood assessment needs to be carried out but said that it is being carried out to a degree “too far”. “What is it going to cost a once-off rural house to do a flood assessment. What additional cost will it be to an application. It is going to be savage. We are facing a time when people haven’t got the price to apply for the planning application not to mind a flood assessment,” he said.

Cllr Michael Sheahan agreed and said there was an “element of overkill”.

“We see the whole of the village of Montpelier including green areas now part of a flood plain. That effectively kills Montpelier from the point of view of development going forward,” he said.

In response, Joe Kennedy, senior engineer with Limerick County Council said that the maps are indicative and highlight areas that need further study. “They do not say that flooding will happen or won’t happen but they are areas that need further study and that is what the OPW will continue with,” he said. “As the study moves on, the flood maps in 2013 will have identified all the flood defences and will have checked out the integrity of the flood defences,” he added

Mr Kennedy said that the issue of planning permission was raised at SPC meetings and individual applications will have to carry out their own flood risk assessment.

The issue of insurance, he said, had also been raised and they is an awareness of the implications for house insurance down the line. “This is going to take up to 2015 to sort out. I would prefer that places were included now to have the more detailed studies carried out to assess the flood risk. I would hate to find out that we have left out a place now and find out in 2016 or 2017 that we should have included in at the time. At least have the study done and if the study shows there is no reason for it being on a flood map in the future, fine,” he said.

In response to suggestions that areas were highlighted “willy-nilly”, Mr Kennedy said that they went through five or six different workshops and the decision to include places “wasn’t taken lightly”.

“They are indicative maps. They are to give a guidance to know where do those more detailed studies need to be done and that’s what is going to be done over the next two to three years.” He said that by the end of 2013 there should be fairly accurate maps available.

Paul Crowe, director of transportation and water services said “an awful lot of work” and research had gone into the assessment and it wasn’t based on people making suggestions at a workshop.

The closing date for submissions to the OPW is November 1.

The maps can be inspected at County Hall in Dooradoyle or on www.cfram.ie