Over the next four years, the Water Service proposes to invest £8 million on upgrading the sewerage infrastructure in the Lagan Valley constituency. That comprises £1·7 million in 2002-03, £3 million in 2003-04, £1·7 million in 2004-05 and a further £1·6 million in 2005-06. The upgrading work includes the construction of 10 new wastewater treatment works at locations including Aghalee, Dromore, Glenavy and Annahilt. In the longer term, the Water Service proposes to refurbish sewerage networks across the constituency at a cost of £12 million. In view of available funding and other priorities, it is likely to be 2007 before the work can commence.
The basis for my question was the announcement by the Minister of the Environment of a moratorium on development that has not received outline permission. Will the Minister for Regional Development assure us that the matter will be addressed, and that urgently needed development will not be hindered as a result of the Minister of the Environment’s statement on the Environment and Heritage Service?
The Minister of the Environment and I met to discuss issues relating to the Environment and Heritage Service, the Water Service and the assessed hot-spot areas. I plan to meet Mr Nesbitt again this Wednesday further to our having jointly tasked our officials to examine the issues involved and to propose appropriate action.
Northern Ireland’s infrastructure has been seriously underfunded for many years, and there is a significant backlog in the provision of water and sewerage services. Consequently, we must spend about £3 billion in the next 20 years. That means that an additional £50 million a year beyond the present expenditure estimates will be required. Therefore, it will take a long time and considerable expenditure to solve all the problems.
Programmes have already been scheduled to deal with the hot spots in the Member’s constituency of Lagan Valley. Given that there is a programme to deal with issues of concern, it is not unreasonable for the planners to allow development to proceed.
As I recall, that was an odour problem. The Water Service commissioned a survey, the publication of which is imminent. As soon as the results become available, I will let Mr Davis know the outcome and what action my Department will take.
I thank the Minister for his replies, particularly those concerning forward plans and the areas marked for investment. Did the Minister mention the Fort Road area of the Lagan Valley constituency, where pipes leak constantly and there is no main sewer? If that area is not on the list, will the Minister examine the matter and reply in writing, if necessary?
I am not familiar with the geography of that area, and to tell me that there are leaking pipes there does not help to define the case, because there are so many leaking pipes in Northern Ireland. I will ask my Department for the details of that site, and I will contact Mr Close about it.