Infrastructure funding pressure threat to new housing in Northern Ireland

Publicly-owned Northern Ireland Water has warned that pressure on funding for new sewage and water infrastructure is threatening new housing development in the Province.

The warning came as the government-owned utility published its latest annual report which showed that for the year up to March 2018 it posted an 8 per cent fall in pre-tax profits of £94.5 million compared to the previous year on a turnover of £431m.

The company is facing a shortfall of £55m in government funds under the terms of its six-year price control plan, PC15.

Chief executive Sarah Vennning explained: “Our PC15 business plan started from a constrained capital expenditure position with £990m of public expenditure budget available against an investment requirement of £1.7bn. Further public expenditure cuts over PC15 mean that around £55m of projects will not be delivered.

“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.”

The position is particularly problematic at present because there is no fully-functioning administration in the province following the 18-month long political impasse at Stormont.

Funding the water company was anticipating is not ringfenced and must compete with other areas of public expenditure like health and education.

The annual report noted that in the last 12 months the company had acquired Kelda Water Services’ holdings in four treatment plants that provide almost half the treated water in Northern Ireland.

It had also constructed its first solar farm at Dunore Point on the shores of Lough Neagh as it increases renewable energy usage from 13 per cent in 2012/13 to a targeted 40 per cent by 2021.