Ulster Farmers Union says report on flooding ‘doesn’t go far enough’

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016

High levels of rain fall continue to fall over Northern Ireland causing flooding in different parts of the country.  General views of the flooding at Kinnego Marina near Lurgan on the banks of Lough Neagh where water levels have damaged local businesses and tourism. 
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th January 2016 High levels of rain fall continue to fall over Northern Ireland causing flooding in different parts of the country. General views of the flooding at Kinnego Marina near Lurgan on the banks of Lough Neagh where water levels have damaged local businesses and tourism. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A report into flooding around the Lough Neagh basin and across Northern Ireland does not go far enough, says the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

Last year farms and businesses as well as many homes suffered significant damage during severe flooding.

The UFU said that while it is pleased that the Alan Strong ‘Review of Winter Flooding (Northern Ireland) 2015-2016’ report was finally published and that there are some positive suggestions, it does not go far enough.

UFU president Barclay Bell said: “We’ve taken the time to carefully consider the report and consult with our members.

“Many had high hopes that this report would offer meaningful, tangible solutions and address the serious flooding problems many rural residents are facing.”

The Union believes that the Government should consider creating a sufficient reserve fund to compensate farmers in years of flooding and that this should happen in conjunction with proper watercourse maintenance programmes across Northern Ireland.

“We disagree with the report in that we believe the build up of silt does contribute to flooding and that if rivers are properly maintained each year, this would help clear systems and improve water flows.

“There is a need for more accurate data in relation to water level measurements, in particular around Lough Erne as to where ‘pinch points’ are.

“It is not acceptable flooding is happening more frequently and with increasing severity in rural areas and still very little is being done.

“The report is welcome, but the impact on homes and farm businesses cannot be ignored and action is needed,” said Mr Bell.

The Union said that it is positive that the report recommends the need for hydraulic modelling along with a review of statutory water levels for Lough Neagh, however this must encompasses the entire Lough Neagh catchment.

The Union also welcomed the idea of setting up the recommended farm resilience groups, led by farmers, provided they integrate with the recommendation for integrated catchment wide models.

And stressed that these catchment models must encompass the entire area, even it crosses the border.

“The report has also highlighted the serious danger that flooding poses to families in flood affected areas.

“The take home message is that without appropriate action to tackle flooding in rural areas, there is an accident waiting to happen,” said Mr Bell.

The UFU has written to the Minister for Infrastructure and the Rivers Agency to request a meeting to outline the Union’s views and discuss further.