Fine Gael Councillor Séamus Fitzgerald said he cannot back plans for a flood-storage area outside Dingle town until as such time as the Office of Public Works (OPW) engages with affected landowners and nearby residents.
t last Wednesday’s Corca Dhuibhne Local Area Plan meeting, councillors opposed a Council proposal to zone lands at Ballybeg, to the northeast of the town, for this flood-storage area, in spite of strong warnings from the local authority over the consequences of this decision.
The recommendation followed a Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) study carried out between 2013 and 2015, which led to the recommendation of a series of flood-defence walls at the harbour area, as well as the storage area upstream of the town.
“The idea…is that there will be a defensive wall and embankment at a particular area around the stream,” Kerry County Council’s Damien Ginty told the meeting.
He said the facility would hold water until floods subside downstream, and he added that the area selected cannot be moved because of adjacent residential development.
“It wouldn’t be able to store the required volume,” he said.
Mr Ginty said he acknowledged Cllr Fitzgerald’s concerns but called on the councillors to consider “the collective good” of the town and the properties at risk of flooding.
The Council said that the decision not to zone the land for this purpose could also negatively impact the prospect of future development in the town and could put the flood-relief scheme itself at risk.
“What they’re proposing is to build a big embankment around their lands, maybe 20 to 40 metres wide, 10 feet high, and tanks to hold rainwater there,” Cllr Fitzgerald said.
“The lands being proposed are agricultural lands, there’s no development on them.
“The OPW haven’t engaged with the land owners yet, and that’s the first thing they must do.”
Cllr Fitzgerald said he had spoken to another farmer elsewhere in the country whose land was affected by a similar development, and he claimed “there’s no talk of compensation yet”.
“They also won’t take any legal liability if anything happens.”
He also claimed that the Dingle scheme was not high on the OPW’s priority list in any event, and he called again for the OPW to engage with those affected before the plans could proceed.
Several submissions had been made in opposition to the plan. One observer questioned the proposal as the town had not been flooded recently, adding that the land is currently used for forestry, which she said reduces the flood risk.
Another submission expressed concern over the loss of grazing land.
Cllr Fitzgerald received strong support from his colleagues, with Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae seconding his proposal.
“If the OPW are as concerned as that, they will speak to the landowners immediately,” Cllr Fitzgerald added.
The land is instead to be zoned for agricultural use.