I recently contacted CEOs of all local authorities to acknowledge the significant work of and contribution made by the City and County Councils in addressing flooding problems throughout the country. In addition, I reminded authorities of the availability of the Minor Works Scheme and to make the best possible use of the scheme to deal with localised fluvial and coastal flooding problems that may be eligible for funding under the scheme.
The Minor Works Scheme was introduced by the OPW on an administrative, non-statutory basis in 2009 following the severe flooding that year. The purpose of the scheme is to provide funding to local authorities to undertake minor flood mitigation works or studies to address localised fluvial flooding and coastal protection problems within their administrative areas. The scheme generally applies where a solution can be readily identified and achieved in a short time frame. The works to be funded are carried out under Local Authority powers and ongoing maintenance of the completed works is the responsibility of the Council.
The work of the local authorities in this regard is of great importance and never more so than in carrying out their principal response agency role during major flood events such as we experienced last winter. I would like to acknowledge also the contribution made by the local authorities in working in collaboration with my Office, the OPW, on the CFRAM Programme and on some of the large urban flood relief projects which have been successfully implemented in recent years. The local authorities also play a very important role in addressing the very many smaller scale flooding problems within their administrative boundaries which have brought relief and considerable benefit to many homeowners. While the Councils can undertake these minor works using their own resources, it is open to them also to apply for funding under the OPW’s Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme (the Minor Works scheme).
Under the scheme, applications are considered for projects that are estimated to cost not more than €500,000 in each instance. Funding of up to 90% of the cost is available for approved projects. Applications are assessed by the OPW having regard to the specific economic, social and environmental criteria of the scheme, including a minimum cost benefit ratio of 1.5:1.
The scheme has been very successful to date in facilitating the carrying out of a whole range of works and studies by local authorities in all parts of the country. Since the scheme was introduced almost €36 million funding has been approved in respect of 540 applications from local authorities for projects to protect thousands of homes from flooding. It is estimated that to the end of 2015 over 5,000 properties have been protected by minor works projects funded under the scheme. All counties have availed of and benefited from the scheme but some have been more pro-active in utilising the scheme than others. While a lot of very good work has been carried out to date in all counties, I would like to encourage all local authorities to consider and review the possibilities within their administrative areas for continued and, where possible, increased use of the scheme.
In encouraging Councils to consider the scope for increased use of the scheme, I emphasised some important aspects of how the scheme operates, the criteria that apply, including, for example the assessment criteria, procurement, funding and audit procedures and the necessary statutory consents and permissions.
I would stress also that the minor works scheme is not a grant scheme for individual property owners but rather a funding mechanism to facilitate local authorities to carry out small scale localised flood mitigation and coastal erosion works. All applications must come through the local authority which is responsible for carrying out the works.
Concluding, I expressed my appreciation for the very valuable work being done by each local authority in helping to address the flooding problems in their county. I look forward to further progress being made in this regard through each authority’s continued co-operation with my Office in the finalisation of the Flood Risk Management Plans under the CFRAM Programme, the implementation of major schemes under the OPW’s flood capital works programme and the operation and continued success of the Minor Works scheme.