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Flooding in Andersonstown and Falls

Part of Adjournment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:30 pm on 19th May 2009.

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Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin 4:30 pm, 19th May 2009

I take the Member’s point. Where utilities or contractors building houses interfere with roads, a bond is paid. They are required to reinstate the road to the condition that it was in before the work. If there are particular issues in relation to the inspection of that and the impact that some of it has in gullies and the ability of the road to drain, I will bring it to the attention of Roads Service. If the Member has some particular instances in mind, in Beechmount or elsewhere, I will bring them to the attention of Roads Service. However, there is a requirement on anyone who interferes through work with the road surface or drainage to reinstate the condition of the road.

In addition to the scheduled operations on road gullies, clearing of blocked gullies is carried out, particularly where fallen leaves represent an ongoing problem at certain times of the year or where there is a history of gullies becoming blocked for other reasons.

After the flooding incident in August 2008, I asked Roads Service to carry out an internal review of its response and procedures. From that review, an action plan was developed that covered a number of aspects of Roads Service’s flooding response. Those action points are now being implemented.

Over the past 12 months, Roads Service and the other two agencies that deal with drainage have put considerable time and effort into developing a flooding incident line. The telephone number for that service was released in January 2009 and is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I fully appreciate that it is important for people to know who to contact for help when they are faced with the possibility of their house being flooded. Members of the public no longer have to decide which organisation to ring; they can simply contact the flooding incident line, where the details of the incident will be recorded and passed to the relevant agency.

As I said, I can assure Members that, having visited a number of sites over the past couple of years, I am aware of the trauma and stress that flooding causes, particularly when the system becomes overwhelmed and sewage leaks into the flood water. I am also aware of the responsibility that Government agencies have to do everything that is reasonably possible to ensure that such incidents do not reoccur.

Some Members raised issues relating to planning. If planning policies, such as PPS 15, are found to be deficient, they should be looked at. That is particularly the case in relation to areas such as west Belfast or east Belfast, where people are continuing to build develop­ments in the Castlereagh hills. The potential redevelop­ment of the Glen 10 sites in the Glenmona area of west Belfast will create drainage and sewage issues for those developments and the developments below them, because water will run down the hill to those lower sites, where it will not be absorbed into the ground.

I am quite happy to discuss such planning issues with the Minister of the Environment to ensure that, with future developments, it is not only the requirements for those developments that are taken into account but the knock-on effect of those developments on the surrounding area. Members raised some other issues that are the direct responsibility of other Ministers. I will ensure that the Hansard report is studied and that we bring those issues to the attention of the relevant Departments.

I accept the argument that all agencies have a responsibility to work together. Obviously, there is more scope for that now that we have a local Executive and Ministers who are able to bring agencies together. On the Sunday after the flooding incident last August, the Minister of the Environment and I managed to pull together a number of agencies and get an immediate report on what was happening. We should take full advantage of that facility to ensure that all agencies work together. As the Minister responsible for Roads Service and NIW, I will ensure that those agencies, as well as others, play their full part in doing that.

Once again, I thank the Members for their contributions. More than one Department has responsibility for this issue, and I endeavoured to answer questions about some of the issues for which other Ministers have responsibility. However, I will ensure that those issues are addressed and that Members get the proper response from the Ministers concerned. Go raibh míle maith agat.

Adjourned at 4.38 pm.