Belfast Telegraph

Construction Employers Federation backs call for more water spending

DFI permanent secretary Katrina Godfrey, NI Water chairman Dr Len O'Hagan, and DOF permanent secretary Sue Gray
DFI permanent secretary Katrina Godfrey, NI Water chairman Dr Len O'Hagan, and DOF permanent secretary Sue Gray
CEF managing director John Armstrong
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The head of the Construction Employers Federation has said the organisation is backing calls for a change to funding for NI Water to enable it to invest further in Northern Ireland's ageing infrastructure.

NI Water chairman Dr Len O'Hagan has said there are 99 locations around Northern Ireland where wastewater treatment works are "bursting at the seams", with the result that no more housebuilding work can be carried out in the affected areas.

Areas which are almost at capacity include Larne, Omagh, Saintfield and Limavady.

Without more investment, Dr O'Hagan said, another 33 would be at capacity by 2027 and the lack of ability to make sewage connections would hold up housebuilding.

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the body had long called for more investment in wastewater treatment works.

He said that without improvements, new housing developments could not obtain full sewage connections.

"It's beginning to hit housebuilding in different parts of the province," he said.

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"If wastewater treatment works are at capacity, there can be no more housebuilding at a time when we're not building anything like enough of the houses we need. And if there is anything that's leading to a shortage of supply of houses, that could ultimately affect prices."

Mr Armstrong referred to a recent announcement by Belfast City Council which included plans to build around 30,000 new homes in the city to house some 60,000 people. "The simple reality is that if the wastewater treatment capacity isn't there, then that (the homes plan) isn't going to happen," he said.

"There is only funding for a very small percentage of the wastewater treatment works - about 10 of the 99.

"There is a huge issue around the model of how NI Water is funded."

Speaking as NI Water launched its annual report and draft 25-year strategy on Wednesday, Mr O'Hagan said water treatment in Northern Ireland would be at crisis point by 2027 without investment.

He added that avoiding such a crisis in water treatment required "a step change in the level of funding made available to us by Government".

The Department of Finance said it was working with the Department for Infrastructure "to consider funding options to ensure sustainable financing solutions for water security in Northern Ireland".

Belfast Telegraph