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'My house has flooded twice in my lifetime': Bray residents concerned about development on floodplain

A Bray community group said the development of a town centre is planned on a natural floodplain that protects their homes.

Residents associations and retailers who support Swap's 'Save Our Floodplain' campaign.
Residents associations and retailers who support Swap's 'Save Our Floodplain' campaign.

A COMMUNITY GROUP in Wicklow has said some 500 homes in Little Bray will be at an increased risk of flooding if a planned development on low-lying land is not modified.

Members of the group Swap (Safety with Alternative Plan) said the development of a town centre is planned on a natural floodplain that protects their homes.

They are calling on Wicklow County Council to relocate the new town centre development which has planning permission until 2020.

The group want the area, which is located at the old golf links in Bray, re-zoned as open space.

“We don’t want to scupper the development, we simply want it pushed it back and to leave the natural floodplain free, so that if floods hit the town again, the waters will have somewhere to go,” said Noeleen McManus from Swap.

“My home has flooded twice in my lifetime. It is very frightening, it never leaves you,” explained McManus, who said her elderly mother also lived in the house.

“There are a lot of elderly and vulnerable people living in the area. Many of the houses are single-storey for that reason,” she explained.

FloodplainAug2016 The River Dargle where residents are concerned about the Bray Development Plan which will allow for a development on the banks of the river. Source: Swap

The area of concern to residents is located between the Dargle Road and the harbour area by the sea. It was zoned for high density building in 2005.

In 2010, planning permission was granted for a new town centre on the former Bray Golf Club lands, owned then by development company Pizarro. However, when the recession hit the group went into receivership and the development did not proceed.

Despite a receiver being in place, the planning permission is still live.

The granting of the original planning permission for retail and residential units was subject to the agreement that Pizarro would pay for the town’s new Flood Protection Scheme along the river.

Hurricane Charlie 

In 1984, Bray was badly flooded during Hurricane Charlie. It caused catastrophic damage to homes in the area, and the army had to be called in rescue some residents.

When Pizarro went bust, the work on the new flood scheme stalled. Eventually, the government had to step in to complete the flood defence works.

The €46 million scheme was only officially opened at a ceremony in Bray before Christmas by Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran.

Independent local councillor Joe Behan said he supports the groups call, stating that no one is trying to prevent the development from going forward, but are merely trying to move the building a few hundred feet back to higher land.

Flood defences

“The residents main concern that if for some reason the new flood defences fail, and their houses are flooded, the open space along the side of the river would act somewhat like a saviour, as it would allow the water to flow onto the field or flood plain. If there are high-rise apartments and shops built on the floodplain that won’t happen,” he said, adding that the planning permission allows for the development to come right up to the river bank wall.

Behan said the council officials are reluctant to change the plans, but he argues the development of a town centre, which he said would be about the third of the size of Dundrum Shopping Centre, isn’t suited to the area anymore due to a new shopping centre on the Main Street commencing shortly, and due to the concerns about traffic in the area.

He said there are concerns that despite the new flood defences being in place, that the area could still flood.

“No one can predict climate change and the extreme weather events we have witnessed lately,” said Behan.

FloodplainOct2015 The River Dargle Source: Swap

Wicklow TD Sinn Féin’s John Brady agrees. He told TheJournal.ie that people in the town welcomed the launch of the new flood defence scheme last year which will defend against a 200-year tidal flood event and a 100-year flood event.

“There are concerned residents living in that area that have been hammered by flood waters in the last couple of years, and who are very conscious that the flood plain that runs parallel to the golf course,” he said.

“Keeping the floodplain as an open space is a safety valve,” explained Brady, who said that it has been acknowledged that flood defences can fail in cases of big floods.

He said not building on the land, and keeping it open, would not bypass the new flood defence scheme, but compliment it.

McManus of the Swap group said she believes if there were concerns in a more affluent area of the town, the residents would be listened to.

“It is a no brainer,” said McManus of the Swap group, adding: “Flood defences can fail.”

Wicklow County Council is due to vote on the Bray Development Plan on Monday.

This is the first time that 32 councillors from around the county will have a say in the development of Bray town.

The last development plan (which was from 2011-2017) was approved solely by Bray Town councillors under the old rules governing local authorities.

Read: Flooding, fallen trees and power outages as Storm Eleanor passes through the country>

‘You have to see it to understand the scale of the damage’: Leo Varadkar travels to flood-hit Donegal>

 

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