At last week's monthly meeting of Enniscorthy Municipal District Council, there was widespread shock at the news that the proposed flood defence scheme will likely take a year to get approval from the relevant Government department with a chance that some aspects of it might need to be redesigned as a result of EU regulations introduced at the end of 2019.
The news was relayed to the members in a report presented by Senior Executive Engineer Larry McHale.
Mr McHale highlighted that new EU regulations brought in towards the end of last year meant the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has to review certain aspects of the scheme - specifically with regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and the Natura Impact Statement.
In his report, Mr McHale highlighted that archaeological investigations on the site began in 2018 and are ongoing and that advanced preparation works ahead of the main construction, including treatment of invasive species, service diversions and advanced archaeological excavations are also ongoing.
However, the members expressed shock and dismay that it could be 12 months before the project is signed off.
'I'm kicked back by the report,' said the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan.
'I didn't think it was going to be a full blown environmental impact [assessment] again,' she added.
'This will take six to 12 months and we will be very lucky to see approval early in the new year,' said Mr McHale.
He also highlighted that as a result of the two 'very detailed public consultations', changes were made to the plan and he expressed confidence that the department will not recommend sweeping changes once the review is complete.
'I can't see it starting next year,' said Cllr Codd-Nolan.
However, Mr McHale expressed confidence that work will begin on the project in 2021.
Cllr Jackser Owen expressed disappointment that it had taken so long for the project to reach the stage it's at.
'It was originally signed off in 2011 and then went to the OPW,' he said.
'Why has it taken so long to be sent?' he asked.
In response Mr McHale said: 'I have gone through the history of the scheme many times.'
He commented on aspects of the project that had to be updated and then he reiterated the fact that work on the project hasn't stopped.
'Work has not stopped on the scheme and we have had a lot of hurdles to overcome,' he said.
The Acting Director of Services, Carolyne Godkin, then reiterated the point that EU regulations changed towards the end of 2019.
'They are regulations imposed on us by the EU,' she said.
Cllr Owens then, again expressed disappointment and said: 'Now it could lead to another delay.'
However, Ms Godkin said: 'We would be hopeful there won't be many changes needed, if any.'
Mr McHale emphasised the need for caution and said the department has to satisfy itself that everything the local authority did was in accordance with regulations and it has to carry out the review.
Cllr Cathal Byrne then proposed that the council writes a letter to the department, on behalf of all the members, asking that the review be pushed through as quickly as possible while Cllr Owens said it would be better to 'sit down and meet them.'
Mr McHale then re-emphasised that the regulatory review was part of a process and he is optimistic that there won't be a need for to many changes to the scheme.