Both the Irish Times and Irish Independent carry the story of a Fine Gael councillor from Ennis, Tony Mulqueen, who has applied for planning permission for five detached houses on an area prone to flooding. If granted the houses will be built adjacent to Mulqueen’s own property which was flooded last December, accessible only by dinghy. Besides the fact that Ennis has its fair share of empty houses presently available for sale (see this DEHLG map of unfinished estates in Clare), there are a number of developments in the town already prone to flooding (as last years floods amply demonstrated). As anyone who lives in one of these houses knows, including Cllr Mulqueen himself I would hazard, one’s house being flooded is a disaster. It takes months to clean-up and dry out, possessions are lost, insurance becomes impossible to obtain, and the ability to sell plummets. It shouldn’t take Department of Environment guidelines to highlight to councillors and planners that building on floodplains is simply bad planning. And yet, all through the boom houses were built in inappropriate locations liable to flooding. And despite the obvious grief caused to home occupiers by flooding, we still have applications to build on floodplains – a fact acknowledged in this case by the person making the application!
A case of won’t learn? can’t learn? it’s up to the buyer to be beware? an ah-sure, the taxpayer will step in and help them if they get into trouble? well, we can build flood defences at a later date at massive costs to the state if necessary? of profiteering and damn the consequences? Here’s a potential test for a local authority to see how much they’ve really have learnt from the laissez-faire, clientelist planning of the boom years. And if the planning permission is given, and by some miracle capital is lent for the houses to be built, will the council and the councillors personally take on the full liabilities of compensating any one who buys these houses of any flood damage? That’ll be a true test of the soundness of planning decisions.