Environmental group halts Roscommon flood relief scheme

ireland
Environmental Group Halts Roscommon Flood Relief Scheme Environmental Group Halts Roscommon Flood Relief Scheme
The scheme proposed by Roscommon County Council would have seen a 3km pipeline installed to take water from Lough Funshinagh, near Athlone, to nearby Lough Ree.
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High Court reporters

An environmental group has successfully resolved a High Court challenge it brought against a decision approving a controversial flood relief scheme in Co Roscommon.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Garett Simons was informed by lawyers for the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) that Roscommon County Council has consented to orders quashing its decision approving an emergency flood relief scheme under section 152 of the 2001 Local Government Act.

As part of the proposed scheme, the council had proposed to construct a 3km pipeline, designed to take water from Lough Funshinagh, a seasonal lake 12km from Athlone, to nearby Lough Ree.

The scheme was designed to help alleviate risks to the homes of several families living close to the seasonal lake, which are deemed to be at serious risk of flooding.

Welcoming the agreement, the judge said there were "very obvious difficulties" with the council's decision, adding that it had "sensibly agreed" that the decision challenge "could not stand".

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It was now a matter for the council as to how it wished to proceed with matters, the judge added.

Judicial review

FIE brought judicial review proceedings against both the council and the State, aimed at setting aside the council's decision from October 14th, 2021.

The action was brought on grounds including that the proposed project broke EU environmental laws.

As part of its action, FIE also secured an injunction preventing the council from carrying out any further works on the scheme until the dispute had been determined. That hearing was due to take place in May.

When the matter returned to the court on Wednesday, James Devlin SC told the court the parties had resolved matters and that the proceedings could be struck out. The May hearing date was vacated.

As part of the agreement, he said the council had agreed that the court could make an order quashing the decision from October 14th, 2021 to approve the scheme.

It was further agreed between the parties that sections of pipeline which have already been constructed and associated manholes could not be used, unless permitted to do so by the High Court.

Under the agreement, those sections of the pipeline would not have to be removed, Mr Devlin, who appeared with Stephen Dodd SC and John Kenny Bl, instructed by solicitor Eoin Brady of FP Logue Solicitors, said.

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A plan for remedial works, the methodology of which had been agreed following a previous set of proceedings, for lands where works had been done, is also to be carried out.

The council had further agreed to pay FIE's legal costs, counsel said.

Resolved

Neil Steen SC, for the council, and Aoife Carroll Bl, for the State, said their clients were also consenting to the proposed orders.

Mr Justice Simons welcomed the settlement and praised the sides legal teams for resolving matters.

Counsel said issues and questions raised in the proceedings in relation to the State respondents would not proceed. No order was to be made in respect of costs regarding the State, counsel added.

In its judicial review action, FIE claimed the council's decision to approve the works, when no assessments on the impact the proposed works will have on the local environment had been carried, was wrong in law.

FIE, which commenced the action last December, also claimed the council had breached EU directives on Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) by screening out the possibility that the proposed development would have significant effects on the local environment. The Council had denied these claims.

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The proposed flood relief works near Lough Funshinagh, which is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC), were the subject of previous court hearings, including proceedings commenced in August 2021 when FIE, again citing environmental concerns and breaches of EU laws, brought a challenge against a decision by the council to grant itself permission to construct the pipeline and other flood relief works.

That action was resolved shortly afterwards after the council accepted it had not fulfilled certain obligations which it should have in relation to the works and agreed to remediate works it had already carried out.

A subsequent claim by FIE that the council had breached the settlement agreement, and was in contempt of court, was rejected by the High Court.

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