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Watchdog criticises plans to rezone land prone to flooding in several towns on Dingle peninsula

It also expressed concern that the council had failed to carry out proper flood risk assessment of other proposed rezoning of sites.

Image: Shutterstock/D. Ribeiro

PROPOSALS BY KERRY County Council to rezone lands prone to flooding in several towns on the Dingle Peninsula have been criticised by the State’s planning watchdog.

The Office of the Planning Regulator has called on the council to justify its proposed changes to the draft local area plan for the Corca Dhuibhne area as it claimed sites in Castlegregory, Castlemaine and Dingle are being zoned for “highly vulnerable uses” in flood risk areas.

The OPR has reminded the council of its obligations “to avoid the very real risk that occasional flood events pose to the people and property of County Kerry.”

It also expressed concern that the council had failed to carry out proper flood risk assessment of other proposed rezoning of sites in Annascaul, Ventry and Fieries.

The regulator said the draft plan falls short of the requirements of the Kerry County Development Plan and Government guidelines which stipulate that development in areas vulnerable to flooding should be targeted at lands with the lowest risk first and adopting a “sequential approach” to more high risk areas.

It noted local authorities who were considering rezoning lands at a high or moderate risk of flooding for development that did not follow the “sequential approach” needed to be satisfied that they could provide evidence-based justification for such proposals.

The OPR said it appeared that Kerry County Council had not adopted such an approach by failing to carry out a “justification test” for several rezonings in towns across the area.

It also expressed concern at the council’s U-turn on a proposal to include a flood storage area for Dingle in the draft plan.

OPR deputy regulator, Anne Marie O’Connor, said the inclusion of the flood storage area had demonstrated a very proactive approach by the council to flood risk prevention which she claimed had the potential to act “as an exemplar” to other local authorities.

O’Connor said the flood storage area, which had now been omitted from the revised draft plan, would have lowered the risk of flooding in a multitude of residential and commercial properties along Spa Road and The Mall in Dingle.

The OPR said it supported and endorsed the council’s overall approach to the new local area plan for the Dingle Peninsula.

“It is recognised that your planning authority has had to take tough decisions on the future distribution of and accommodation of growth across the plan area within a context of competing legislative, policy and economic pressures,” the OPR observed.

The regulator said it considered that the council had achieved “a balanced approach.”

It welcomed the council’s response to one of its previous recommendations to rezone a large site to the west of the town centre in Dingle for housing.

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The OPR described the nine-hectare site as “a critical landbank” which was “in the right location for more people”.

It also welcomed that the council had taken on board several of its other observations which the regulator said would help resolve the issue of unfinished housing development in Castlemaine, improve implementation of regeneration areas and ensure better facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, the regulator said the council’s response to its recommendation not to proceed with the rezoning of a site off Spa Road on the outskirts of Dingle for housing was “less than ideal.”

The OPR opposed the proposed rezoning because it would expand the town’s settlement boundary by over 400 metres at a time when other sites closer to the town centre were available for residential development.

Nevertheless, the regulator said it would accept the council’s decision to retain the change but called on it to ensure measures were taken “to mitigate the potential isolation of future residents”, particularly as it might be used for a social housing scheme.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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