Culmore flood defence confusion threatens to swamp residents

Alderman Maurice Devenney, left, pictured with Culmore Point residents, from left, Leonard Gough, Matt Stewart and John Clarke. INLS0614-194KM
Alderman Maurice Devenney, left, pictured with Culmore Point residents, from left, Leonard Gough, Matt Stewart and John Clarke. INLS0614-194KM

Several Culmore Point residents fear confusion over statutory responsibility for flooding and sea defences in the area may swamp them as readily as the tidal surges and rising sea levels that have battered the tiny peninsula recently.

John Clarke, is one of a number of residents who live in a row of cottages lying in the shadow of the 16th century Culmore Fort, which once guarded the approach to Derry.

Mr Clarke told the Sentinel that due to the dilapidated condition of a sloping flood defence wall, the waters of Lough Foyle are sometimes lapping as far as the garden gate of a cottage his family has occupied for a hundred years.

“There is a small road leading from the Fort to the cottages and we are responsible for that and that’s fair enough,” said Mr Clarke.

“But the sloping concrete wall has really deteriorated over the past number of years and noticeably so over the past six months. We’ve been in touch with all the statutory agencies but no-one seems willing to take responsibility for it,” he added.

“It comes up as far as my garden gate at times. When you look at what’s happening in England, it seems to me there’s no point in waiting until it’s too late and we’re left with the same situation,” he said.

DUP Alderman Maurice Devenney echoed the residents’ concerns.

“The winter weather and the flooding on the UK mainland show the risk to homes in coastal areas. These concerns should be taken seriously,” said Mr Devenney.

“I’ll be seeking round table talks with all the agencies to see if this can be sorted out,” he said.

The Sentinel asked a number of Government agencies with responsibility for emergency flooding response and flood defence if they were aware of the problem.

DRD Roads Service blamed recent flooding at Culmore Point on a tidal surge, which occurred at the beginning of January.

A DRD spokesperson said: “Events such as these are rare both in frequency and intensity. In preparation for the consequences of this particular event, the Multi-Agency Emergency Co-ordination Committee met with the purpose of identifying what areas and which key strategic assets could be at potential risk of flooding.

“It also determined what remedial measures were most appropriate. As agreed and directed by the Emergency Co-ordination Committee, Roads Service deployed its resources and distributed sandbags to the Culmore area to assist residents in protecting their property.”

DRD said it’s responsible for removing surface water from the carriageway, and that: “Under normal circumstances this is generally not problematic. However, when the water level of the Foyle rises above the level of the Culmore Point Road, unfortunately flooding can occur.”

NI Water told the paper it’s been made aware of periodic surface flooding in the vicinity of properties at Culmore Point Road.

“This matter has been investigated, and we can confirm that all sewers owned and maintained by NI Water in the Culmore Point area are operating in a satisfactory manner, and are therefore not a contributory factor to surface flooding in the locality,” a spokesperson stated.

The Sentinel also contacted the Rivers Agency, which said it was unable to meet our deadline for a response on Tuesday (February 11), but promised to provide a statement once field officials had made an assessment. The Sentinel will carry the Rivers Agency response as soon as it is received.

But for Mr Clarke and his neighbours the anxiety continues for the moment.

He says be believes works at the former Culmore dump over recent decades have affected local flooding patterns and that this is placing more pressure on the crumbling wall.

“It’ll only take a bit of pressure to open up one of the holes in the concrete and wash it all away,” he told the paper.

“Another issue is that people walk down past our homes to walk along the shore. A lot of people use it, and several people have fallen,” said Mr Clarke.