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Underfunding of NI wastewater network ‘holding up new homes’

Much-needed houses here can’t be built until action taken, warns builders’ group

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A lack of investment in the sewage network is holding up the construction of much-needed new homes, house builders have said.

Braidwater Homes, Fraser Houses and Lagan Homes said NI’s ageing water infrastructure was adding to pressure on the housing market here, where demand is far exceeding supply.

Soaring demand has led to bidding wars on homes, which in some cases in Belfast has pushed prices up by around £4,000 a day.

In March, there were 3,540 house sales in Northern Ireland, making it the busiest month for sales since June 2007.

The firms have formed campaign group Drains for Development to raise awareness of the impact of underfunding.

Conor Mulligan, director at Lagan Homes, said: “We need to build more homes now but planning permission is complicated and even if approved, there is no possibility to build due to a lack of foul sewer capacity.

“Therefore, in the majority of cases, new homes still can’t be built as many of Northern Ireland’s wastewater treatment works and sewerage systems are chronically underfunded and nearly, if not already, at capacity.”

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Conor Mulligan

Conor Mulligan

Conor Mulligan

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NI Water, the government-owned company responsible for providing water, has said wastewater infrastructure is unable to take connections from new houses and businesses in cities and over 100 towns

Mr Mulligan said NI Water “urgently” needed to receive the funding recommended for it before housing stock falls any further. He said lack of homes was hitting first-time buyers and social housing particularly badly.

He added: “Northern Ireland urgently needs a modern, well-maintained and sufficiently funded sustainable water and wastewater network to allow more homes to be built.

"While the Executive has committed to meet NI Water’s funding requirements for 2021/22 this doesn’t go far enough.

"Our group will continue to campaign for Stormont to prioritise this issue and ensure NI Water receives the long-term, multi-year funding it needs to address critical gaps in infrastructure.

"In March 2021, Northern Ireland recorded the busiest month for the housing market since the 2007 boom.

"There is a high demand for the development of new homes across Northern Ireland, and Drains for Development hopes to engage with the social housing sector on this issue also.”

NI Water’s business plan for 2021 to 2027 identified the need for over £2bn in capital investment over the next six years. The Department for Infrastructure has said the funding for year one is secure.

But last month it said subsequent years were to be confirmed. A spokeswoman said: “We see this positive funding position at the outset of the six-year programme as a statement of intent and look forward to the necessary funding to be in place across the six-year period to 2027.

“Access to secure, sustainable and sufficient funding is, and will continue to be, the single biggest barrier to delivering the infrastructure Northern Ireland needs.”

NI Water has also announced the laying of a new pipeline in Ballywalter, Co Down, at the end of July, part of an £18m programme to upgrade wastewater systems in the area.


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