Dispute over Creggan Reservoirs remediation costs

The threat of flooding is believed to be stalling a number of key developments

Dispute over Creggan Reservoirs remediation costs

Fort George is one of the key projects affected

Local MLAs have disagreed over which government department should foot the bill for £1m worth of remediation works at Creggan Reservoirs.

It’s understood that development cannot commence at Fort George, and other city sites, until these works have been carried out.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has confirmed that Fort George is located in an area at risk of flooding in the event of an uncontrolled release of water from Creggan Reservoirs.

Assurances are now being sought in relation to safety and funding options are being explored.

Derry City & Strabane District Council owns the reservoirs which are leased to Creggan Country Park.

The issue came to light after Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Martina Anderson said that major building developments in the city could be ‘held to ransom’ by overly-restrictive legislation relating to reservoirs.

She has called on Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to address the issue by seeking amendments to the current law or provide funding for the upgrade of the Creggan Reservoirs.

“The current legislation has already stalled the development of a major social housing and community facility in the Glen area of the city,” claimed Ms Anderson.

“This is because the legislation compels the planning authorities to make decisions based on the worst-case scenario, no matter how unlikely that may be.

“This also means that major potential developments at Fort George will be stalled because of the miniscule risk of the Creggan reservoir failing and flooding the surrounding area.”

She added: “If the minister is not prepared to pursue such a course of action at this stage, I have also urged her to, at the very least, fund the necessary remedial works at Creggan reservoir so that much-needed projects can finally get the go-ahead.”

However, SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin suggested that the Department for Communities (DfC) should meet the estimated £1m cost to enable proposed developments on the Fort George site to proceed.

In a counter-claim, she said: "It is essential to make much faster progress on the Fort George site. We have proposals on hold that are key to the economic transformation of Derry.

“At present proposals cannot proceed because of the assessed risk of flooding from Creggan Reservoirs.

“While the risk is regarded as low, it would be irresponsible to simply ignore the risk, or build without addressing the risk.

“The truth is that climate change has increased flooding risk and this has to be recognised, taken seriously and in this case resolved urgently.

"Given the importance of the Fort George site - which is under the ownership and control of the DfC - it makes sense that the DfC meet the costs of the remediation work in order to advance economic progress in Derry.”

When asked for a response to those comments and whether it has considered meeting the cost, a DfC spokesperson said the issues around the Creggan Reservoirs are not specific to the Fort George site alone.

“However, DfC officials are working in partnership with DfI and Derry City and Strabane District colleagues in order to seek solutions.

“Any funding requirement will need to be considered more fully alongside key partners as we move forward,” she added.

Meanwhile, the DfI said it doesn’t own the reservoirs and is therefore not considering funding.

A spokesperson for the DfI said it has been consulted in relation to flood risk at the Fort George site.

He added: “This site lies in the inundation area of both Upper and Lower Creggan Reservoirs. 

“Discussions are ongoing with the owner and manager of these reservoirs to obtain adequate assurances in relation to reservoir safety.

“As these reservoirs are not in the ownership of the Department, any remedial works required to bring the reservoirs up to the required standard is not something the Department would presently be in a position to consider funding.”

Expanding on that answer, in response to an Assembly question, Minister Mallon this week said that the Council nor Creggan Country Park have been able to provide 'adequate assurances'.

She said: "My Department is a statutory consultee in the planning process and provides flood risk and drainage advice to planning authorities in respect of river coastal, surface water and reservoir flooding.

"As part of this process, my Department has been consulted in relation to the flood risk associated with proposed development within the inundation area of both Upper and Lower Creggan reservoirs.

"To date neither the local Council who own the reservoirs, nor Creggan Country Park, who lease the site containing the reservoirs from the Council, can provide adequate assurances in relation to reservoir safety to allow the Department to provide a positive consultation response, in accordance with planning policy.

"To assist Council and the Department for Communities, discussions are ongoing with the owner and manager of these reservoirs to explore how the reservoirs at Creggan Country Park may obtain adequate assurances in relation to reservoir safety."

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