Water infrastructure constraints crippling home building


What’s happened and when?

At the Committee for Infrastructure on Wednesday 7 March, Drains for Development, an umbrella group of housebuilders in Northern Ireland, briefed the committee on the impact of constraints on development arising from the underinvestment in water and wastewater infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

James Fraser from Fraser Homes, Joe Maginnis from Braidwater and independent economist Maureen O’Reilly who is researching on behalf of the group, gave evidence to Assembly Members.

The group described the current water and wastewater infrastructure in Northern Ireland as ‘not fit for purpose’ and quoted the Infrastructure Minister who had previously stated that 100 areas in the region are operating at near or above intended design capacity for water services.

What in this briefing is relevant to me?

In relation to Pre-Development Enquiries (PDEs), Mr Fraser informed that committee that of 700 homes planned by the company, all had negative responses from NI Water meaning that only 100 homes could be built. 

Members were told that in 2021 alone, 546 PDEs were made with NI Water, and 68% of NI Water responses referred to some form of constraint due to the difficulties facing wastewater infrastructure. This constituted 159 commercial units and over 12,000 residential units.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Maureen O’Reilly estimated that in spite of NI Water receiving the over £2 billion it estimates it needs during the current price control period, this will simply allow the organisation to reduce the areas currently near or at capacity from 100 to 49.

Furthermore, members were informed that as part of the groups research, NI Water had identified a further 30 economically constrained areas that may emerge during the price control period, meaning there will be over 80 sites across the region where constraints remain despite the investment.

Ms O’Reilly informed members that the impact of the current restricted supply of homes means that prices will inevitably increase and that subregional development will become more uneven and unequal in the face of the opposite aim by the Executive.

The recently published Housing Supply Strategy sets out the goal for the Executive to build upwards of 100,000 homes in the next fifteen years and this will inevitably be affected by the lack of infrastructure and capacity if urgent and long-term investment is not forthcoming.

RSUA has arranged a meeting with Sara Venning, Chief Executive of NI Water online from 12.30pm to 2pm on Monday 4 April 2022.  If you would like to attend the meeting on 4 April 2022, please register here.

You can watch the evidence session here where it begins at 14 minutes.