THE cheapest of three flood protection options for Newtownstewart has been ruled out by the Department of Infrastructure because it is below the threshold for justifying public funding.
Three options were outlined by consultants for the Rivers Agency to guard against a repeat of the August 2017 incident when homes, businesses and community facilities, including the local GAA grounds, were deluged.
Consultants acting for the Department of Infrastructure Rivers Agency have identified seven homes, five commercial premises, a church hall and the grounds of St Eugene’s GAA club as being at risk on the Castle Brae and Douglas Road areas close to the River Strule.
Among the three options considered were ones offering different elements of protection, including flood banks, the re-alignment of the Castle Brae Road, sheet piling, the re-alignment of the Douglas Road and the construction of a 200 metre reinforced concrete wall at the rear of the St Eugene’s GAA grounds.
However, the £1.6 million cost of a scheme recommended as the most cost-effective was deemed to unjustifiable for an improvement scheme by the department. It has instead pledged to carry out watercourse maintenance and routine grille inspection and maintenance in the area.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said an economic appraisal was at the heart of the process of consideration of flood management projects.
“Unfortunately, the flood study has revealed that the monetary benefits of a flood alleviation scheme for the Strule at Newtownstewart are only one third of the cost of the lowest priced option to provide effective defences,” they said.
“The department is therefore unable to fund flood defences for Newtownstewart and recognises this will be a disappointment to the owners of properties that are known to be at risk from flooding.”
Local Sinn Féin councillor, Kieran McGuire, said he was disappointed by the report and its recommendations.
“In conclusion, it has recommended against each option on the basis that they were all financially unviable citing the cost of the protection measures, outweighing the value of the homes, premises and facilities in the areas of most acute risk to repeat flooding,” he added.
“The Rivers Agency has a duty of care to all those who were affected in 2017 and must now get back to the drawing board and bring forward whatever practical measures it can to protect this area of high flood risk.”
SDLP MLA, Daniel McCrossan, described the report as ‘bad news for Newtownstewart’, while his party colleague, Cllr Cara Hunter, also expressed disappointment.
‘I know the Rivers Agency has a limited budget, but that is no comfort to people affected by the flood in Newtownstewart. They are disappointed and so am I,” she said.