The MLA said that the Minister needs to act urgently to address major flaws in legislation; anomalies that allow building work to take place without sufficient reserve funds in place to cover the construction of roads and sewers if a developer goes bust.
The Regional Development Committee agreed to undertake an inquiry into unadopted roads and sewers in January 2012 and MLAs debated its findings on Tuesday 4thDecember. The report made a number of recommendations, including legislative changes, the provision of more information to property buyers, and a’prioritisation audit’ within each council area, based on risks to health and safety. This would allow for priority based intervention bids by the Department for Regional Development (DRD) and/or Northern Ireland Water, should sufficient resources be made available.
Stewart Dickson MLA said: “We are told to ‘never say never’ in politics, but at a cost of between £340m and £400m, it is very tempting to say that there is no chance that central government will pay to bring all affected roads and sewers up to adoption standard; particularly given the absolutely dire financial situation already affecting our water and sewerage infrastructure and services.
“With this in mind, the Committee has made a very sensible recommendation that NILGA coordinates a ‘prioritisation audit’, to allow for the possibility that unadopted infrastructures causing risks to public health and safety could be addressed by DRD and NI Water.
“We could also benefit from better cooperation and awareness from all parties involved. We were told, for example, that NI Water is not formally notified if a developer goes into administration. We were also informed that many enter into property agreements unaware of the status of roads and sewers and/or the consequences of non-adoption.
“We must also look forward to put in place legislation and measures that prevent the appearance of many more unadopted infrastructures.
“It is very concerning that there is no mandatory requirement in the Water and Sewerage Services Order 2006 for a developer to submit a drainage plan to Building Control, or to enter into an agreement with NI Water, in respect of a bond.
“Moreover, the Committee and I note that the Private Street Orders, as the report states, do not adequately recognise the current economic circumstances. These are major flaws that need to be addressed urgently.
“The Assembly and Executive have a duty to assist those affected by the economic downturn when they can, and the Committee has made clear recommendations to assist all those affected, or potentially affected, by the problem of unadopted infrastructures across Northern Ireland.”