Ireland reviews drainage plans

There's something of a tradition in Ireland of allowing the Brits to forge ahead with new ideas and developments, while the Irish watch and learn from the mistakes, before launching a usually-improved Gaelic version. That's why you don't see too many high-rise tower blocks in Dublin. The latest example of this vicarious caution would seem to be the move to prevent private driveways draining onto the nation's highways and into the public sewers.

Ireland's Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG) has announced plans to review the existing regulations covering surface water drainage and indicated that it wants to see mandatory use of SuDS , including permeable pavements , for all new developments in the Republic.

In the consultation document "The Planning System and Flood Risk Management 砲onsultation Draft Guidelines for Planning Authorities" , published late last month, the focus is very much on compulsory flood risk assessment and controlled development, with real impetus given to developments away from flood plains and other high-risk areas. However, it also makes clear that private driveways are very much included in the nationwide strategic re-think.

Flood risk document

In response the increasing trend to pave over front gardens to provide off-road parking, the document reveals that the current regime of Exempted Development Regulations is to be reviewed and exemption will only apply to those projects adopting SuDS principles. Pending completion of the review and the subsequent legislation, planning authorities are now being instructed to attach conditions to all planning applications that would involve "significant hard surfacing" , requiring such developments to adopt SuDS techniques such as permeable pavements and/or loose-surfacing such as gravel or slate chippings. Just to prove that, like their counterparts in London, civil servants are not necessarily the best persons to develop this type of policy, there is no definition of what constitutes "significant": would that be 5m² as it is in England? Or would 500m² be nearer the mark?

The current consultation ends at 4pm on Friday, November 14th, 2008, and given the experience of their contractor colleagues in England, it would probably be a smart move for the Irish contracting trade to make known their views and hopefully avoid the sort of political knee-jerk comedy nonsense that has been foisted upon the English trade.

PDF Download document from DEHLG website

These proposals raise the question regarding strategy for flood risk, permeable paving and SuDS in Northern Ireland. The Westminster legislation enacted as of October 1st 2008 applies only to England, although it is expected that the Welsh assembly will approve similar guidelines in the near future. Scotland already has a comparatively progressive attitude to SuDS and permeable paving through the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) but there is no sign of any planning for Northern Ireland. The EU promotes a policy of integrated river basin management, wherein water management is based on river catchments rather than geo-political boundaries, so will the North adopt the DEHLG guidelines as part of a cross-border agreement or will it enact its own legislation?

It seems no-one is really sure, although Tobermore Concrete Products , based in Northern Ireland, have raised the issue with their local MLA, as there is a real prospect that NI could be the only part of the islands not to have a coherent policy for SuDS, permeable paving and flood management.

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