Belfast Telegraph

Confusion over flood zone homes

DoE doesn’t know how many new houses built in susceptible areas

By Patrice Dougan

More than 4,500 planning applications have been received for homes on sites which are deemed to be in a flood risk zone.

While the Department of the Environment released the figures, it does not know how many have been passed or how many houses have been built in flood-prone areas.

The number of homes at risk of flooding in the future could be much higher than previously believed.

The DoE has now come under fire for the lack of data held.

Upper Bann MLA Sam Gardiner said such information could be vital for future risk assessment.

“I believe the Department of the Environment should keep this information so that proper contingency planning could take place for the multi-agency flood emergency teams set up when a disaster of this type occurs,” the Ulster Unionist said. “I believe if we are to plan properly for responses from those teams then we need to identify flood-prone areas that are likely to be affected.”

He added that 4,500 planning applications in areas deemed a flood risk “could equal a lot of public money being spent on flood rescue” if those applications were approved.

“We need to monitor this to properly plan finance and reaction times,” he said. “I have a particular concern in Upper Bann for the flood plan of the River Bann — which has caused problems in the past.”

In an Assembly question, Mr Gardiner asked Environment Minister Alex Attwood how many homes in Northern Ireland had been built on flood plains.

Mr Attwood said his department does not hold this information, but said that it had consulted with the Rivers Agency in relation to 4,500 planning applications made in the last five years which were located in an area of known flood risk.

In his official response, Mr Attwood said: “The department does not capture information in relation to the number of dwellings proposed or approved on flood plains or monitor the commencement or completion of building works.

“However, it has consulted with the Rivers Agency in relation to almost 4,500 planning applications on sites which are located in an area of known flood risk in the last five years.

“The department also consults with the Rivers Agency when a development plan is being prepared to ensure that such plans do not bring forward sites or zone land that may be susceptible to flooding, unless there are exceptional circumstances or it is considered appropriate to put mitigation measures in place.”

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