THE European Union is to launch an investigation into a local authority that granted planning permission for a number of family homes despite knowing that buildings in the area had been destroyed as a result of flooding.

Jim Higgins MEP, who sits on the EU Petitions Committee, has confirmed he will bring three families to Europe to tell how their lives were destroyed by the decisions.

They were forced to flee their homes in rural Galway following serious flooding last year and have been continually denied assistance from the state.

The EU probe will now focus on why their "suffering was exacerbated by the failure of their government to react in an efficient and timely manner".

It will be a significant case given the huge level of damage caused by flooding in Ireland last year and the likely repeat of flooding in the future.

"The families were granted planning permission in an area which the Office of Public Works described as prone to repeated flooding in its 1992 Flood Report, of which the families were unaware at the time of building," said Higgins.

"The crucial question is why planning permission was granted in an area which the local planning authority knew, via reliable OPW reports, to be prone to flooding."

The EU petitions committee is charged with investigating complaints from European citizens once all domestic avenues to address the concern have been exhausted.

Tom Flatley, whose family is one of the three due to travel to Brussels, was granted planning permission to build his family home in Galway 10 years ago.

Yet at the same time, just 50 yards from his front door, another house was being demolished due to continuous flooding.

Despite this, and the area having been identified as hazardous in a 1997 flood report, Flatley has been consistently refused state assistance in relocating his family.

"We are very happy that they have agreed to investigate it but it has been a long year of trying to get answers and help," he said.

"The council refuses to speak to us and the OPW has said that the situation we are in is of no responsibility to them.

"Planning is one issue but the way people have been treated also has to be looked at."

Higgins added: "His two houses have been destroyed, he can't get insurance, he can't make a complaint and there is no compensation from the government."

As part of the probe, a delegation from Europe could visit the rural area of Galway in question.