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Call for Stormont to urgently address ‘waste water infrastructure crisis’

The Drains for Development group has been formed by builders to highlight how the infrastructure is impacting on construction.

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(DrainsforDevelopment/PA)

(DrainsforDevelopment/PA)

(DrainsforDevelopment/PA)

Stormont has been urged to act over a “crisis” in Northern Ireland’s waste water infrastructure.

A group of house builders have said the development of “much-needed new homes is being prevented until urgent upgrades are made”, which they said is particularly impacting first time buyers and the social housing sector.

They described March 2021 as the busiest month for the housing market since the 2007 boom.

Earlier Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon told the Assembly it could take 12 years to address issues within water and waste-water infrastructure.

The Utility Regulator has identified an investment requirement of £2 billion over the next price-controlled period (six years).

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Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon answers questions in the Stormont Assembly. (NI Assembly/PA)

Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon answers questions in the Stormont Assembly. (NI Assembly/PA)

Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon answers questions in the Stormont Assembly. (NI Assembly/PA)

The Drains for Development group – backed by local developers including Braidwater Homes, Fraser Houses NI and Lagan Homes NI – is calling for the Stormont Executive to address the issue.

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The group’s director Conor Mulligan said more than 90 areas in Northern Ireland have a freeze on development.

“Northern Ireland is currently facing a major housing issue in that demand is massively outweighing supply,” he 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.

“Currently, more than 90 areas in Northern Ireland have a freeze on development, preventing these much-needed homes from being built.

“Since its formation in 2007, NI Water has only received the recommended level of funding in a handful of the last 14 years – this needs to be rectified urgently.”

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.”

Ms Mallon told MLAs earlier she has allocated funding to address 40 of the locations either at or beyond their developmental capacity.

She agreed there is an “acute shortage” of social and affordable housing, adding that the Executive needs to work collaboratively to address it.

“Part of the case that I made at the Executive to secure funding was the fact that if we don’t invest in our water and waste water infrastructure then we won’t be able to build the many homes that we need,” she told MLAs


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