A plan to build 21 houses in Shannon has been put on hold as the council-owned site at Tullyglass Lower, beside the Glaise na Rinne development, is deemed a flood risk by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Addressing a recent special meeting on housing, Director of Social Development Liam Conneally told councillors that the flood risk issue in relation to CFRAM has affected the delivery of the Tullyglass site.
CFRAM stands for Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management. It was set up to meet the requirements of the EU Floods Directive to assess, map and manage flood risk in Ireland. Government and the local authorities must take cognisance of the CFRAM findings in relation to flood risk.
Mr Conneally inherited a legacy issue not of his making after the council proceeded with the affordable housing scheme on low-lying land. He says he will not proceed with the 21 new houses at this location unless and until the flood risk has been negated.
Liam Conneally, who has responsibility for Clare County Council’s housing policy, stated that the council is presently in negotiations with the OPW and the Department of the Environment in relation to the site located behind Cluain Airne at Tullyglass Lowlands. He told councillors, “Until we find a way to reduce the risk to the site, we won’t proceed with planning, it would be wrong of us to do that.”
On a more positive note, Mr Conneally confirmed that the construction of 60 new houses in a separate project on a site just off the Southern Primary Road in Shannon will proceed as planned. The site, adjacent to St Caimin’s Community School, is located above the flood risk area and work will begin as soon as possible. Funding for these 60 houses is coming from the National Development Finance Agency. It is anticipated that the development will come under Part 8 of the Planning and Development Regulations, a mechanism designed to speed up the planning process.
Given the high demand for housing in Shannon, Mr Conneally said the council is presently working hard to get construction started on the 60 house development in 2018.
Regarding the Tullyglass Lowlands site, according to the Shannon Town and Environs Local Area Plan 2012-2018, Clare County Council had permission to develop 60 housing units at this location, 16 affordable and 6 step-down units have already been built.
Commenting on the issue, independent councillor Gerry Flynn said the original plan in 2007 was to build up to 60 houses in phases. When construction commenced at the site in August 2009, there was strong opposition from the local community to the development including from Cllr Flynn.
He recalls, “In reality the plan was ill-conceived. Having lived in Shannon most of my life I know the lay of the land and I was aware that this site is below sea level. However what concerned me most at the time was that our observations were not taken on board by the council. “What was the point of having a public consultation when the observations of local people and local councillors were ignored? The council proceeded to build on this land without any due recognition of our views.”
The 22-unit development cost €5.3m to build, an average of €240,000 per house, for properties that were sold at discounted prices of €93,000 and €102,000. In 2013 Cllr Flynn called for an inquiry into the Glaise na Rinne development and its many anomalies.
Asked whether the CFRAMs designation will have implications for those who purchased affordable homes at Glaise na Rinne, Cllr Flynn said he intends to raise this with the council as these people bought their homes from the local authority in good faith. He commented, “If there are any implications, for example in acquiring insurance cover or in relation to any future resale of the properties, the residents should be told what the council will do to address this.”
In relation to the wider issues raised by CFRAM and the EU Directive, Cllr Flynn said one of his concerns is that the findings may be “used as a stick to beat people” by insurance companies.