County Council accused of ‘negligence’ after it ignores flood risk warnings in Barna

Photo by Neha Kumari

Galway County Council has been accused of ‘negligence’ after allowing future development of Barna to be just 15 metres from the waterfront despite warnings from senior officials it should be twice as far away.

Instead, council members have voted to allow new housing in Barna village to be 15 meters from the foreshore, ignoring the recommendations of senior officials to keep it at 30 metres.

Fears have been raised that any development that close to the shoreline might be hit by floods in an event of a storm or prolonged rainfall.

Green Party Cllr Alastair McKinstry, who is also a climate scientist at NUI Galway, had proposed the distance be kept at 50 metres from the foreshore, but he did not get any supporters for his proposal.

“I accept that this land is subject to flooding and will be more prone to flooding in the coming future with climate change”, said Mr Alastair. 

“The planet modelling on which the current development plans are based is insufficient. The OPW’s predictions are based on the reports from 2013 which has been updated now in 2021. In the earlier reports, the estimated sea-level rise was assumed to be 50 cm, while the updated report shows a median value of 2.5 metres rise in the sea level until 2100.”

He further said, “It is negligence by some councillors, but for some councillors, they still don’t understand the problem. One of the councillors even gave a justification that this area has never been flooded, so it can’t be said that there is a risk of flooding”.

Photo by Neha Kumari

The senior planners from the Planning Commission had suggested that the setback should be kept at least 30 metres away from the foreshore.

Councillor Noel Thomas (FF) voted in support of the 15-metre setback and said, “we don’t know exactly when this flood is coming. So, if we have to look at things that way, then we should not build anything anywhere”.

“If the question is do we move away from these cities now or do we wait until we have to move and from the financial perspective my answer is that we move as required,”  he said.

A joint report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Met Eireann (ME) and the Marine Institute(MI) published in 2021 has found that global warming has resulted in Ireland’s climate becoming warmer and wetter.

An app called the Fire Tree Flood app shows that in the near future, the rise in sea level will cause many coastal areas of Ireland to be underwater.

Ulf Strohmayer, a Geography professor at NUI Galway with city planning experience, was vocal about the dangers of climate change. 

He said, “Despite better knowledge, people are not doing what they should do. We should not ignore what science is suggesting”.

“We have always thought that we could control the water’s edge but over time we have learnt that we can’t do so. Even if we do try to control it through some kind of concrete development that would be a waste of money.”

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