BY ANTHONY QUINN
A TOTAL of 520 new homes in the Dungannon District have been built in areas at high risk of flooding, the Department of Environment has revealed.
Worryingly, some of the houses have been built after the Rivers Agency launched a highly detailed flood map of the Dungannon District, which showed how large swathes of the district could be underwater part of the year.
It is feared that the owners of the new homes, which have been built over the last four years, will struggle to find home insurance because their property is situated on a recognised flood plain. It is also predicted that since the homes are known to be at risk of flooding, owners will find it difficult to sell or rent their properties.
Parts of Moy, Charlemont, Tamnamore, Killyman, Maghery, and Donaghmore are liable to flooding, according to the rivers agency.
The agency’s multi-layered map, which predicts future flood ‘hot-spots’, also shows how a large section of Dungannon town could be deluged including Moygashel, Ballysaggart and Mullaghmore.
The map reveals which homes are on the flood plains of local rivers, as well as areas which have been flooded in the past. Householders are being urged to check if their property is in the endangered areas.
Commenting on the amount of new homes built in flood areas, a DOE spokesperson said that new planning legislation had been designed to take into account such risks.
The number of new Dungannon homes built on a flood plain has dropped dramatically from 205 in 2010 to just 73 last year.
The spokesperson said: “The planning system cannot in itself prevent the flooding of properties but it does acknowledge the
risks and uncertainties associated with climate change.
“The Department considers that actions toaddress these matters through the planning system should be based on a precautionary approach.This approach is embodied in the policies set out in Planning Policy Statement 15 ‘Planning and Flood Risk’ to ensure that the development decisions we make today and in the future does not increase flood risk.”
The spokesperson went on to say that many local towns and villages had been built in valleys and along river corridors such as the Blackwater’s, and thus have an increased flood risk.
In the last 5 years from April 2008 to September 2012, 5,363 residential and 3,995 non-residential planning applications were approved within Northern Ireland’s flood plains.
This figure includes new and replacement developments as well as alterations and extensions to existing properties.
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, who is in charge of the Rivers Agency, said the flood map was meant to help local householders prepare for flooding events and assist those planning on building a house.