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An aerial shot of the flooding around Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon in early January.
The High Court has allowed an environmental group to bring a fresh challenge against a controversial flood relief scheme being constructed by Roscommon Co Council.
The action has been brought by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) against the council over the construction of a 3km pipeline designed to take water from Lough Funshinagh, a seasonal lake 12 km from Athlone to nearby Lough Ree.
The council is carrying out those works to help alleviate severe flooding, which it claims threatens the homes of people living close to Lough Funshinagh, which is a designated Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
At the High Court on Tuesday Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he was satisfied to grant FIE permission to bring judicial review proceedings aimed at setting aside the council’s decision of October 14th last to approve the emergency flood relief scheme under section 152 of the 2001 Local Government Act.
FIE claims that the council’s decision is unlawful, invalid and in breach of EU law.
The council’s decision to approve the works without having to conduct assessments on the impact the proposed works will have on the local environment is wrong in law, FIE claims.
It also amounts to a material contravention of the Roscommon Development Plan, it is also claimed.
The judge, after being informed by Neil Steen SC for the council that some 57 per cent of the pipeline has already been laid, also placed a temporary stay on any further works being carried on the project until January 14th next.
On that date the court will hear submissions from both sides on whether to keep the stay in place until the challenge has been fully determined by the High Court.
Mr Steen said his client will seek to have the stay lifted.
Works were due to cease over the Christmas holidays, and were not due to restart until early January, counsel added.
Counsel also told the court that with all things going to plan it was hoped to complete the works in March of next year when it is anticipated that the flood waters on the Lough would be at their highest.
In its proceedings FIE, represented by James Devlin SC and Stephen Dodd SC with John Kenny Bl instructed by solicitor Eoin Brady, seeks orders and declarations including an order quashing the council’s decision of October 14th last.
FIE also seeks several declarations from the court including that the council erred in law and has breached EU directives on Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) by screening out the possibility that the proposed development will have significant on the local environment.
It further seeks a declaration that the decision contravenes the 2000 Planning and Development Act.
The scheme has been the subject of several hearings before the High Court.
Last August FIE, citing environmental concerns and breaches of EU laws, brought a challenge aimed at halting the pipeline’s construction.
That action was resolved after the council accepted it had not fulfilled certain obligations it should have in relation to the works and agreed to remediate works it had already carried out.
FIE later claimed that the council had breached the terms of the settlement agreement and was in contempt of court.
However, Mr Justice Simons dismissed FIE’s application for orders that the council’s chief executive Mr Eugene Cummins be attached and brought to court for his alleged contempt.
The council denied breaching any court order and said the remediation plan agreed in August was being complied with.
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