Flooding issue must be addressed: MLA

Flashback: William Irwin MLA and Sydney Anderson MLA visiting some of the areas most affected by flooding
Flashback: William Irwin MLA and Sydney Anderson MLA visiting some of the areas most affected by flooding

Following a report into winter flooding 2015/16 conducted by Alan Strong, chair of the NI Drainage Council, Upper Bann DUP MLA Sydney Anderson has called for action to help those adversely affected.

The independent report focuses on the devastation caused by winter storms, such as ‘Frank’ which caused widespread flooding across the Lough Neagh, Foyle and Erne catchments.

Mr Anderson said: “This report makes many recommendations on flooding and refers to the help agencies gave during flooding incidents. Following its publication, I would call on the Minister for Infrastructure, who holds responsibility for flooding, to act upon this issue which has very real impacts for many in Northern Ireland.

“I witnessed first hand the devastation created by flooding and visited a number of homes, farms and businesses that were greatly affected in Birches/Maghery area of Portadown. There were many acres of farmland which were under water and were unusable and there are still homes that are drying out to the present day. Last winter proved that rural dwellers are very resilient people, but with winter now upon us, they need more assurance that they will not be affected in the same way again.

“I welcome the efforts of stakeholders who engaged with the department and Alan Strong on this piece of work. The report makes reference to the procurement of a hydraulic model of Lough Neagh flows and states that this should lead to a ‘review of the statutory water levels’. This is something that I and many other stakeholders have called for over a prolonged period of time and I hope that action on this front would be forthcoming.

“There also needs to be financial investment into proper maintenance, monitoring and greater clarity on public messages about flood severity and frequency to provide better assistance to farmers, home owners and businesses.”

Mr Anderson added: “Ultimately, to do nothing regarding flooding is simply not an option.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has also welcomed Mr Strong’s report.

UFU president Barclay Bell said: “Many of our members around Lough Neagh and in Co Fermanagh have been severely affected by flooding in recent years and they will be eager to read the report’s recommendations. The UFU was actively involved in Mr Strong’s consultation and fed in many of our members views as to how flooding can be prevented. We are carefully considering the recommendations of the report.”

Those affected by the flooding in recent years have demonstrated how resilient farmers are in the face of adversity.

“I was in County Fermanagh and areas around Lough Neagh earlier this year and witnessed the damage on farms first hand. In some areas, this land would flood annually but the duration of the floods in 2015/2016 has been excessive. This has thrown up severe practical, logistical, financial, and planning problems, which has undoubtedly had an impact on businesses. The publication of this report and its recommendations will give these farmers some hope for the future that meaningful action will be taken,” said Mr Bell.