I am advised that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed the River Bride (Blackpool) Flood Relief Scheme, with an estimated cost of €20.5m, in March 2021, and construction was expected to commence in early 2022.
In June 2021, the community group, Save Our Bride Otters (SOBO), was granted leave to apply for a Judicial Review of the decision of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to approve the River Bride (Blackpool) Flood Relief Scheme. A stay was also granted on works being carried out pursuant to the 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 has 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 has conceded the matter on a single ground related to public consultation procedures on certain information as part of the confirmation process.
Two other flood relief schemes are also currently under consideration by the Minister for Expenditure and Reform for Ministerial Confirmation pursuant to the Arterial Drainage Acts 1945 and 1995 (as amended). These are the River Slaney (Enniscorthy) Scheme, and the River Deel (Crossmolina) Scheme.
In respect of any schemes submitted to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for confirmation, it is important to note that, under Section 7.E of the Arterial Drainage Act Regulations 2019, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform can (a) make an order confirming the scheme, (b) refuse to confirm the scheme, or (c) refer the scheme back to the Commissioners of Public Works for revision in specified respects.
It is necessary therefore to ensure that all legal requirements, including any existing or emerging case law, have been fully considered and complied with when making and confirming his decision in respect of any schemes, including those mentioned above, to ensure that decisions are robust as any decision taken by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under Section 7.E(a), (b) or (c) is subject to Judicial Review.
The confirmation process for these schemes 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 schemes.