Flood defences at Culmore are not viable

Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured visiting Culmore to view the flood defences. Included, are Councillors Tony Hasson, Sandra Duffy, Alderman Maurice Devenney, Kieran Mullan and Sean O'Neill, Rivers Agency  and residents, John Clarke and Matt Stewart. DER1214SL012
Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured visiting Culmore to view the flood defences. Included, are Councillors Tony Hasson, Sandra Duffy, Alderman Maurice Devenney, Kieran Mullan and Sean O'Neill, Rivers Agency and residents, John Clarke and Matt Stewart. DER1214SL012

New flood defences at Culmore Point are not economically viable and anti-erosion measures should be considered instead, Rivers Minister Michelle O’Neill has advised DUP MLA Gary Middleton who raised the matter at Stormont.

Residents living in row of cottages around the corner from the 16th century Culmore Fort have repeatedly spoken of their flooding concerns.

“Rivers Agency, along with Transport NI, have met with residents and elective representatives to discuss concerns regarding Culmore Point. The Agency has advised that a flood alleviation scheme is not economically viable at this location and that anti erosion measures should be considered,” said the Minister.

“DARD’s responsibility for coastal protection under the Drainage (NI) Order 1973 is very clear and is wholly related to flood risk. DARD, has no legislative remit for coastal erosion,” she added.

Two years ago this paper reported on residents’ concerns that tidal surges combined with stormy weather were seriously jeopardising properties in the area.

Due to the dilapidated condition of a sloping flood defence wall, the waters of Lough Foyle were reported to have been lapping as far as the garden gate of a cottage occupied by one family for a hundred years.

The Minister acknowledged the need for a floods bill to update the Drainage (NI) Order 1973, and address legislative gaps, as long as two years ago.

However, she ruled out such a bill within the current Assembly mandate.

Briefing MLAs in March 2014, the Rivers Agency’s director of development, David Porter said: “We have been saying for some time that we need a floods Bill for Northern Ireland to fill gaps in the Drainage Order and to help us with emergency response planning, third-party defences and other day-to-day issues that we deal with that are not covered in the Drainage Order.”

He said water course maintenance, sea defences and emergency response planning could all be addressed by a floods bill.

As it stands the residents of Culmore are suffering from a diffusion of responsibility.