By Dan Walsh
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath T.D, today (Friday), based on the advice of environmental consultants and officials, has decided to refuse the River Slaney (Enniscorthy) Flood Defence Scheme, submitted by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
This decision is based on a detailed assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed scheme which concluded that the scheme would have considerable adverse impact on the environment.
This decision was taken based on an extensive procedure which involved the engagement of environmental consultants, public consultation and engagement with other relevant bodies including the OPW, the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage/National Parks and Wildlife Services.
The OPW have been informed of the Minister’s decision to refuse the scheme. The OPW will now have to assess options available to mitigate the environmental issues identified in this process.
Speaking on the decision, Minister McGrath said; “This Government is committed to developing policy responses to mitigate the effects of climate change and to protect the health and safety of residents and the local economy. Very significant funds of €1.3bn have been set aside under the National Development Plan to achieve this aim.
“It is, however, incumbent upon me, as the authority charged with confirming these schemes, to ensure that the environmental impact is acceptable under law. Flood relief schemes are very complex with multi-layered considerations arising from primary legislation, regulations, EU Directives and increasing case law both domestically from the High Court and Supreme Court and internationally from the European Court of Justice in this area.
“I can assure you that this is not a decision which was taken lightly. There has, in recent years, been a very significant increase in Judicial Reviews and other legal challenges to a range of infrastructure development projects arising from increased cross-cutting environmental legislation.
“I am also acutely aware of the time-frames involved in bringing these schemes about. It is in everyone’s interests that this decision is made now, so that the OPW can proceed to consider the matters at hand and assess options available to mitigate the environmental issues identified in this process,” concluded Minister McGrath.
The River Slaney (Enniscorthy) Flood Defence Scheme, was submitted by the Office of Public Works in April 2020.
A public consultation was held in 2020. Additional information was sought from OPW towards the end of 2020 and this was submitted in April 2021.
Following discussions with the consultants and with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it was deemed that the environmental impact of the scheme was such that the scheme should be refused under section 7E(b) of the Arterial Drainage Act.