Major developments in Derry will be put on hold until £1m is found to carry out essential remedial works at Creggan Reservoirs.
Last week the Derry News uncovered information which categorises the local reservoirs as ‘high risk’.
A number of years ago during the development of the reservoir safety policies to inform the Reservoirs Bill, a provisional designation was given to each potential controlled reservoir based on the possible impact on human life in the event of reservoir failure.
They are rated either low, medium or high which determines the level of management required and by extension long-term maintenance costs.
The Creggan Reservoirs were given a ‘high’ provisional designation, according to a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson.
It’s understood that the probability of it happening is low but the designation is based on the risk to life in the event one of the dams does fail.
And with climate change it is feared that flooding events may occur more often.
Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request this paper also revealed maps (below) which illustrate the reservoir’s flood inundation zone stretching as far as the Strand Road and Buncrana Road.
Documents seen by this paper now show that a team of engineers were hired by the council at a cost of £30k to inspect the reservoirs after flooding issues were highlighted at 2017/18 committee meetings.
They were instructed to assess their condition, identify remedial works and costs, and prepare a 10-year operational and maintenance plan.
Initial projections outlined costs in the region of £70k - £200k.
Further analysis was required and given the complications associated with working in and around water - the final cost is now expected to be around £1m.
In order to remove perceived risks to developments which fall within the flood inundation zone, remedial works must be completed and a long-term maintenance regime put in place.
The council report acknowledges that a solution has to be found between the local authority, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), Rivers Agency and the Department for Communities (DfC) which owns the site.
Until remedial work is carried out at the reservoirs, major projects at Fort George and social housing and community facilities in the Glen area cannot proceed.
Those include plans for a health hub or international tourist attraction at the prime Strand Road regeneration site.
The second phase of a Science and IT office development at Fort George has also been impacted.
As manager of the reservoirs, the financial burden is expected to fall on not-for-profit organisation, Creggan Country Park Enterprises, unless some other arrangement is agreed.
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said that major building developments in the city are being ‘held to ransom’ by ‘overly-restrictive’ legislation relating to reservoirs.
“This is because it compels the planning authorities to make decisions based on the worst-case scenario, no matter how unlikely that may be
She repeated her view from September that the reservoirs pose a ‘miniscule risk’.
The Foyle MLA has called on Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to address the issue by amending the current law or providing funding for the upgrade.
Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin said the onus is on the Department for Communities (DfC) to meet ‘all or part’ of the cost.
The Foyle representative said she became aware of the Creggan Reservoirs risk assessment in June of this year.
“In response, I instigated a series of urgent actions, involving Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Department for Instructure and the Department for Communities.
“I was particularly concerned that councillors had not been given a briefing on the risk assessment, which I understand was updated in December last year.
“Working with SDLP councillors I ensured that a report was presented to a committee of the council, so that all councillors could address and respond to the risk.
“That committee paper led to discussions and negotiations taking place between the statutory bodies, with regard to remediation action at the reservoirs.
“My understanding is that an urgent review is now being undertaken to assess the nature of the remediation required and its cost.”
She added: “I have called on the statutory bodies to urgently decide which of them shall meet the costs.
“I have suggested that the Department for Communities should accept all or part of the costs, given that the flooding risk is an impediment to that department’s projects moving forward.
“It is important to stress that the assessment by expert officials is that there is what might be termed a low risk of flooding, but it is not what I would regard as ‘miniscule’, as was described by another political representative.
“It is essential that the flooding risk is not ignored, but instead remedied with the maximum possible speed.
“That is essential for the safety of the public and their property. It is also essential to enable progress to made on one of the city’s signature development sites, Fort George.”
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