The Importance of Planning, and Abiding by the Plan

Spatial planning is carried out under the Planning and Development Act 2000 and is rooted in the principle that decisions about development should be based on the common good rather than the interests of private individuals alone. Sustainable development is that which "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (Our Common Future, the Brundtland Commission, 1987). With this in mind, it is essential that all building plans in urban and rural areas take the environmental impact of the developments into consideration.

One of the most important aspects of planning in Ireland is to take into consideration the future impacts that development may have; for example, the probability that flooding might occur. Building on flood plains or not putting in preventative measures can cause a huge amount of damage to homes and businesses. For example, in July 2013 Donegal's new A&E unit was damaged extensively by flooding. It was attributed to the absence of proper flood attenuation measures at the nearby river, which burst its banks after a heavy thunderstorm.

Clonmel, Co. Tipperary is one of the worst affected areas in Ireland for flooding. The town is built on the flood plain of the River Suir and major flood damage was caused in 2000, 2004 and again in February 2009 when some commercial properties were damaged. A flood relief scheme was signed in April 2008 to protect the area from flooding, and the first three phases are underway.

Ireland experienced one of the worst incidences of flooding in November-December 2009, especially in the west and south of the country. This was the result of prolonged and intense rainfall that was almost four times the average for the time of the year. Huge numbers of people were forced to leave their homes and businesses over the Christmas period due to floodwater damage.

Since Met Éireann and the UK Met Office began naming storms in 2015 some have stood out and caused serious damage, including Desmond (4-6 December 2015) and Frank (29-30 December 2015). The storm names for 2016/17 can be seen here

The principle of the planning system in Ireland is that local authorities make decisions on development proposals that are put forward by individuals and public organisations. Such decisions, in the form of planning permissions, are made in the context of planning policies that have been adopted by the local authority as well as national policy documents and regulations such as the National Spatial Strategy (NSS) and regional planning guidelines (e.g. wind energy, rural housing, housing density etc.). In addition, development proposals must comply with Environmental Impact regulations, and plans and programmes with the Strategic Environmental Assessment regulations (SEA). More recently, new buildings must also comply with the Building Energy Rating regulations (BER). With regards to historical buildings, the Heritage Council's role is to propose policies for the protection, preservation and enhancement of historical monuments and architectural objects.

In relation to the development and maintenance of drainage systems, the Office of Public Works (OPW) work to ensure compliance of drainage operations with EC regulations. They have set out an approach to manage the requirement for environmental assessments in their series of Ecological Assessments which consider how specific areas of conservation may be affected by drainage operations. The first Ecological Assessment report in the series examines the impacts of arterial drainage maintenance operations on Natura 2000 sites. Approximately thirty assessments are carried out every year for arterial drainage operations in Natura sites in fulfilment with the requirements of the Habitats Directive. More information on the OPW's environmental activities and assessments can be found here.


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