Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Flood Risk Management
158. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual cost to the Exchequer associated with the provisions of the Arterial Drainage Act 1945; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2436/23]
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is the consenting authority for flood relief schemes which are prepared by the Office of Public Works under the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995.
EU Directive 2011/92 obligates the consent authority (DPER) to undertake an independent assessment of the Environmental Impact Statement for flood relief schemes prepared by the OPW. EU Directive 2014/52 which harmonises the EIA process and brings about additional appropriate assessment (AA) responsibilities to the consent process for flood relief schemes is aimed at providing a high level of protection of the environment and human health.
The costs to the exchequer incurred by my Department in discharging this consenting function mainly relate to the procurement of independent, specialist consultancy services as well as any advertising costs expended to raise public awareness of public consultations which are carried out during the process. These costs pertain to the consenting process only and do not include the costs incurred to the delivery of the flood relief schemes themselves, which is separately funded and managed by the Office of Public Works.
The extent of costs regarding the consent process will vary in a given year and this is influenced by a number factors such as the number of schemes which seek consent in a given year, the nature of any particular flood relief scheme and whether further periods of public consultation are required.
A breakdown of the costs incurred under the Arterial Drainage Act consent process by my Department in the previous 5 years are as follows:
159. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the current position of the Blackpool flood relief scheme; when work will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1916/23]
I am advised that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed the River Bride (Blackpool) Flood Relief Scheme in March 2021 under Section 7 of the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995, as amended. In June 2021, the community group, Save Our Bride Otters (SOBO), was granted leave to apply for a Judicial Review of this decision of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. A stay was also granted on works being carried out pursuant to this Ministerial decision, pending the resolution of these proceedings.
Following an extensive legal review of the grounds of the Judicial Review, and the statutory processes around the decision-making process, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform agreed to consent to an order reverting the evaluation of the Blackpool Flood Relief Scheme back to an advanced stage of further public consultation. In agreeing to this, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform conceded the matter on a single ground related to public consultation procedures on certain information as part of the confirmation process.
Following this decision, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform submitted a Request for Further Information to the OPW on foot of the issues raised in the Judicial Review and to which OPW responded on 13 October 2022.
The confirmation process for this scheme, including any additional public consultation required, is a matter for the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Office of Public Works will continue to engage with Department for Public Expenditure and Reform as appropriate to further progress the scheme. Subject to receipt of confirmation the procurement process for a contractor will follow in 2023 with the works to commence shortly after.