New housing developments threatened by under-capacity sewerage network

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By Michael McHugh

More new housing developments could be threatened by under-capacity in the sewerage network because of public expenditure cuts, Northern Ireland Water warned.

Around £55 million worth of infrastructure projects like upgraded wastewater treatment works and new water mains are not being delivered due to the spending squeeze, the company added.

Uncertainty over funding risks progress on making greater efficiencies and could result in "tangible impacts" on the delivery of services, the local economy and the environment, the company added.

Chief executive officer Sara Venning said: "These are projects such as new water mains or upgraded wastewater treatment plants needed to connect new houses and underpin wider economic growth.

"This has been highlighted very recently by the fact that several areas of Northern Ireland face the prospect of curbs on development as the result of capacity issues in the sewerage networks."

New housing developments have been banned in Saintfield in County Down after its sewage system reached capacity.

Ms Venning said: "NI Water is not immune from public expenditure cuts and uncertainty over funding.

"This places progress on efficiencies at risk and could result in tangible impacts on service delivery, the local economy and the environment."

The company's business plan from 2015-2021 was already constrained with £990 million available against what it said was an "investment requirement" of £1.7 billion.

Ms Venning added: "Further public expenditure cuts over PC15 (Price Control 2015-2021) mean that around £55 million of projects will not be delivered."

She said every aspect of life relied on the water and wastewater services provided.

"Our business is essential to support a thriving population, a growing economy and a flourishing environment.

"To continue to do so however, we must be adequately funded."

Ministers have not been in post at Stormont for more than a year and a half and civil servants have been prevented from making major decisions in the absence of a powersharing Executive following a recent court ruling.

An Infrastructure Department spokesman said: "NI Water's 17/18 annual report and accounts report 'best ever' levels of service to customers during the year working within the funding provided by the department.

"The department works closely with NI Water and the Utility Regulator to determine the levels of funding required to deliver services.

"Funding for NI Water has to be balanced against the needs of transport and other services within the overall allocation provided to the DfI by the Department of Finance.

"The department accepts that it would be preferable for long-term funding certainty to be provided as this would assist the delivery of the necessary water and waste water infrastructure."

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