Deputation to Bray Town Council
Below are the three papers presented by a deputation from SWAP to Bray Town Council on Tuesday, 4th October, 2005.
Vincent Eaves, Chairman
Cathaoirleach, Town Councillors, Council Officials, Members of the Public,
Firstly, I would wish to thank the councillors on behalf of everyone living in the area of the Dargle river for the opportunity to speak here tonight. (These are people who live with the constant threat and worry of the possibility of flooding and all of the stresses and strains this would bring to their lives).
The old Bray Golf Club lands have now been rezoned by the local council to allow for major development. We, like everyone living in the town, welcome any development which will enhance the town, provide employment, housing, schools etc.
However, as the people who live in the general area of the Dargle river are only too aware, the current situation and indeed past history shows that the existing golf club lands provide an overflow for the Dargle river in the event of flooding.
The rezoning and proposed development of the golf club lands allows for a large section to be set aside for recreation areas, football pitches park lands etc.
We are not opposed to this proposed development but we believe that the recreation facilities should be located beside the Dargle River, which will provide our homes with some protection in the event of the river flooding.
We are also very concerned with the lack of flood prevention on the Dargle River - works which have not been carried out on the River Dargle in the past 19 years.
This is a very practical issue which has very severe impact on human lives. As someone who, following the last flood, had 3’ 8’’ of flood water in my house, I can tell you the experience of horror and sheer fright of that night will be with me and my family for the rest of our lives.
In this regard I might be considered to be one of the lucky people who live in a two story house. Many of my neighbours, some of whom are elderly or confined to wheelchairs, live in single story housing.
In 1986, 563 houses in our area were flooded, and 40 to 50 businesses. It was estimated that the total cost of the flood between homes, businesses, and infra-structure was more than 5 million Irish pounds. And that was without counting the cost in human misery and fear. The cost of implementing the second phase of the Barry Report at that time would have been 2 million Irish pounds.
A number of developments have been built in the area of the Dargle River since the last flood which will add even further to our flood problems:
We are requesting that you the Bray Town Councillors give very serious consideration to our requests:
According to Brady, Shipman, Martin, who originally performed a developmental analysis on this site, the lower lying lands of the golf club are an alluvial flood plain. This goes without argument. So what does this mean for us, the people of Little Bray?
Imagine for a minute no development in the Dargle valley area, just fields and trees and a river. Underneath all of this land lies water, and, as the river rises, so the levels of this water rise, and, as the river falls, likewise the level of this water falls. So in fact we are living on one enormous sponge.
Thankfully, most development in the Little Bray area is very old, and, from an engineering perspective, crude by design, with no major foundations or footings driven deep into the bedrock below, unlike new developments. Serious neglect over 19 years by successive councils and governments has left our river in a treacherous condition.
In 2003, Mark Adamson of the Office of Public Works, in a paper presented to the Institute of Water and Environmental Management in 2003, said on the topic of:
So this in itself is a huge problem for the town and its guardians, but added to this is the pressure from developers for every green field site in order for them to provide us with another monumental extravagance that we just cannot do without - something so life changing that we will be getting out of bed just to look at it. And that may be true. We are not opposed to sustainable development, the kind that takes account of all the variables, the kind that respects mother nature and her awesome power, the kind that works with and not against local communities, the kind that leaves the local government work to the local government.
Robin Bailey of the Dept of the Environment UK said at the National Seminar on Hydrology 2203:
The English government has re-written the rulebook on building on floodplains in a document titled ‘ppg25’.
"Planning authorities should recognize the importance of functional floodplains, where water flows or is held in times of flood, and avoid inappropriate development on undeveloped and undefended floodplains". "It is clear that the Government wants an end to development in flood risk areas. The new guidance gives clear signs and, although rightly stopping short of banning it, makes it very difficult. Development must continue, it is vital for the economy." “Prevention is better than cure; developing in lowest risk areas is better than protection after the event. The theory is in place but the practice won't be easy!”
And so where does that leave us, well…
The Dargle Park and the river were handed to the local council by the Earl of Meath to look after in perpetuity for the people of Bray. There has been a dereliction of duty on behalf of successive governments to provide us with the funding to dredge, widen and deepen this great river of ours, to give it back its capacity, to hold whatever amount of water it needs to hold in times of rage and storm and calm. We support this Council in making an application now to the OPW for funding to do these works immediately to maintain the floodplain in its entirety.
This is the only sustainable solution for now and into the future, one that will benefit not just today's residents of our town, but our children and their children. Do this right for once and for all. Do not be beholden to the money men.
Let the Government take responsibility for protecting all of us in our homes and let the streets of Little Bray be awash with the sounds of people living their daily lives, not slopping out their flooded homes.
We have a river ripe for catastrophe. And these past few months we have been held to ransom by being told that the only way flood protection works will be carried out is if we allow a developer to build on the very flood plain that has protected us in the past.
So let’s take a realistic look at the efficacy of this plan...
Firstly, even with our flood plain taking up excess water from the river every time the rains and high tides come together, we urgently need flood protection. To give us flood protection, while taking away the flood plain, is to cure one problem while creating a much bigger, uncharted, danger to our lives and homes. It is like replacing faulty foundations for a two storey house – and then building another few stories on top.
Secondly, if we already need a deeper, wider river, with higher walls, how deep and how wide and how high and thick must the walls be to protect us if we lose the flood plain? Is Little Bray to become a Mountjoy lookalike?
Thirdly, even if a developer were to deepen and widen the river, and to build a thick, high wall all along the Dargle, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will prevent the river ever breaking through upstream again, and pouring down our streets as it has done in all of the major floods in the past. In 1986 this river breached its channel by tearing down part of a huge factory – Lithographic Universal – and that was before global warming became so extreme.
Fourthly, flood protection works are only as good as their maintenance, as New Orleans tragically proved, and developers cannot be held responsible for maintaining our river.
Finally, by asking developers to pay for flood protection works outside their development, we are mortgaging our future: there is no such thing as a free lunch.
We are today a far, far richer country than we were in 1986. …And we have at this time a Minister for the Environment living in our town, who fought for flood protection works for the Dargle during his career as a county councillor, and later as a Senator, long before his election to the Dail. We believe that Dick Roche could go down in our town’s history as the politician who finally turned the Dargle River from a problem into a beautiful amenity as befits his office, and our town. And we are amazed at the vote of ‘no confidence’ in his ability and his power that this Town Centre zoning represents.
The Dargle flood plain was rezoned by this Council, in the face of all international and national advice, without any independent study being carried out beforehand – and despite the fact that there is abundant space on the high ground to put the high density buildings, while maintaining the irreplaceable flood plain below.
In response to our continually expressed fears we have been told that there are two clauses in the Development Plan to prevent any building on the flood plain if experts decide that this is dangerous. Taking away the first step in the chain of safeguards against unsafe development – the zoning process – is like wedging open fire doors and pointing to the fact that there are still fire extinguishers, sprinklers and fire escapes outside.
If anyone were to do this once in our town, our Council would rightly pursue them with the full rigour of the law. If anyone were to continue to do it, again and again and again, they would simply be closed down.
Yet rezoning the flood plain as Town Centre has meant that application after application after application can be made, with that important first step in the safety chain missing.
We are pleading tonight for a flood plain kept safe by returning it to its original Open Space zoning, confining buildings to the abundant high ground. We are pleading for a river repaired and restored by the Government of the people who own it for the people who own it. We are pleading for continuous maintenance carried out on our river by the Council we have elected.
We are pleading that tonight you will start the process of a Variation on the Development Plan to return the Dargle Flood Plain, both at the golf links and at the lands at Rehills, to their original, safe Open Space zoning.
This is our town, but it is your town too. We ask you tonight to have faith in it, and to keep faith with us.