Belfast drainage repair bill could run to £1.3bn
Up to £1.3bn needs to be spent on a revamp of Belfast's water and drainage system - almost double the cost estimated in a report, it has been claimed.
Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph disclosed that £750m could be required to address years of neglect to the city's infrastructure.
Without action it could have major social and economic implications for our capital.
However, campaigners say the proposals need to go much further.
The Unite union has presented proposals to the Assembly for a £1.3bn makeover of our water infrastructure.
Unite said the costs could be borne by the Treasury and higher rates.
Jimmy Kelly, Unite's Ireland secretary, said the Assembly report provided further evidence to justify the need for their proposals for large-scale investment.
"We have now twice presented papers to the Northern Ireland Assembly with a focus on how to underpin economic growth and on both occasions we have highlighted the need for an estimated £1.3bn investment in our water infrastructure," he said.
"This report appears to confirm the need for almost £1bn for drainage and flood defence alone. It also carries a stark warning about the consequences of failing to bring forward this investment.
"Unite proposed financing this investment through ring-fencing a proportion of higher district rates to fund this necessary work.
"However, we also made the case that some of this cost should be borne by the Treasury, given the length of under-investment in our water infrastructure.
"Such an investment programme would not only address potential threats to our future economic growth and development and ensure greater security for households facing the threat of flooding, but it would also generate a significant stimulus to the economy to the benefit of all."
Mr Kelly urged the Executive to reconsider Unite's proposals.
This newspaper reported how a paper presented to MLAs stated Belfast has the worst drainage infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
The city is already more prone to flooding than elsewhere, and the risk will further increase as it continues to expand.
The paper, presented to Stormont's regional development committee, warns that failing to act could mean damage to Northern Ireland's reputation, no new housing and limiting new businesses.
It could also impede growth and impact on construction and revenue.
Experts estimate it could cost up to £750m to sort out the problems.
The report, entitled Living With Water Programme, states: "The drainage infrastructure of many towns and cities in Northern Ireland is currently inadequate, with the problems being most acute in the greater Belfast area."
Risk assessments have identified Belfast as the largest of 20 significant flood risk areas across Northern Ireland.
The report warns that, because of Belfast's complex drainage infrastructure, a "cross-sectoral approach" is needed to find solutions that can be efficiently delivered.
Referring to financial implications, it states: "Early estimates range from £350m to £750m for Belfast alone, and the various elements of the [Strategic Drainage Infrastructure Plan] need to be fully costed."