Saturday 27 December 2014

Coalition housing plans under threat as water facilities not up to task

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

Published 31/07/2014 | 02:30

Water warning
Water warning

KEY parts of the country earmarked for growth cannot sustain any housing development in the short term because there is no drinking water and wastewater plants.

Irish Water has warned that a lack of essential infrastructure will hamper development in some areas, and that government plans to build new homes to cater for growing demand will not be met in the near future unless there is major investment.

The warning comes as the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) will today announce water prices which will take effect from next October.

The lack of investment in treatment plants means that new homes cannot be built in areas where demand is highest, including our major cities and commuter belts.

Affected areas include the Dublin suburbs of Swords, where the Housing Agency says 1,448 homes are needed between now and 2018; Balbriggan (925), Shannon in Clare (290), Cavan (602), Carrigtwohill in Cork (330) and Arklow in Wicklow (484).

In all, more than 6,200 homes are needed in the areas without treatment facilities.

The long-term expansion of cities including Galway and Cork will also be affected unless "hundreds" of millions of euro is spent, said Irish Water's head of asset management Jerry Grant.

Details of the problems are contained in a report prepared for a public consultation on the company's 25-year investment plan called the 'Water Services Strategic Plan' (www.water.ie).

The warnings will stall government plans to build new homes, particularly for families.

Many of the treatment plants are already overloaded and operating above their designed capacity, and while some can be upgraded and "sweated" to extend their life, many cannot cope with extra demand.

In Dublin, Irish Water is in discussions with NAMA about providing new facilities in the Docklands to spur development, and is also examining "bottlenecks" in the system where changes could be made to increase capacity. The company also wanted to meet with planners and developers before applications were made to build new homes.

"I wouldn't say we would refuse development. What we are trying to do is target money so we can cater for immediate needs," Mr Grant said.

"We want to talk to developers and planners in advance. We don't want to cause any delay to any new housing development, but to be sure we can deal with it, we need to know in time so we can plan for it."

Irish Water would not invest in areas which would not be developed in the long term, it said, because it would add to customer bills unnecessarily.

Irish Independent

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