FURTHER public consultation looks set to take place on plans for a flood relief scheme in the Blackpool area, according to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
In March last year, the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform gave the go-ahead to the Office of Public Works (OPW) to proceed with a €20.5m flood relief scheme for the Blackpool area.
However, in June community group, Save Our Bride Otters (SOBO), was granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision of the Minister to approve the Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme.
A stay was granted on works being carried, pending the resolution of these proceedings.
In a statement today, a spokesperson for the Department said it has now “agreed to consent to an order for further public consultation”.
“Having considered the matter in great detail, [the Department] has decided that the best course of action is to afford the opportunity to consider further certain aspects of the scheme and to consult again with the public in terms of its views on the environmental impacts of the scheme.
“This Government remains fully committed to mitigating the devastating impact of flooding on local communities and businesses.
“Significant additional funding has been allocated for these purposes under the National Development Plan, but it is imperative that our response to flooding is robustly designed and satisfies necessary legal requirements,” the spokesperson continued.
The news comes as SOBO claimed the Government had conceded its case in a judicial review against the Blackpool Flood Relief brought by the community group.
It said the State had conceded on just one of the seven grounds under which the group had sought the review, namely that there was “insufficient public consultation”.
SOBO objected to the scheme due to concerns for the local ecology including otters.
They argued that the proposed works were “unnecessarily expensive”, and that “a better solution to prevent flooding in the Blackpool area could be achieved at a fraction of the cost by slowing down the flow in the river using nature-based temporary storage upstream”.
The proposed scheme included plans to create flood defence walls and embankments, the removal and replacement of bridges, the construction of a large trash screen and the culverting of the 350m stretch of the River Bride in Blackpool Village.
In the statement on Monday night, SOBO said the river has “unquantifiable value to the people of Blackpool, an area already lacking in green space”.
“Culverting is a brutal and outdated practice that commenced in Blackpool in the 1800s - over a kilometre of the Bride and Glen Rivers are already buried under the roads between Blackpool and the River Lee.
“The proposed scheme would have left a village that was built on the banks of a river, without a river.
“Save Our Bride Otters had no option but to challenge the minister’s decision.” The group continued that it wants “the best flooding solution for Blackpool - a solution that not only protects Blackpool Village but enhances it”.
The OPW had previously said nearly 300 properties, both commercial and domestic, would benefit from the scheme.
It said that the selection of the scheme which was granted permission was the result of “a rigorous selection process” to ensure that the solution brought forward represented “the optimum solution for Blackpool having fairly weighed up the relative merits of all of the various constraints, opinions and viewpoints”.