Committee Publishes Report on Reservoirs Bill
Synopsis: The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has today published its report on the Reservoirs Bill. The Committee report underlines a number of key concerns including the need for an audit on the current condition of reservoirs which will fall under the new legislation and the financial implications the requirements could pose for reservoir owners.
Date: 09 July 2014
Reference: AGR 13/13/14
The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has today published its report on the Reservoirs Bill. The Committee report underlines a number of key concerns including the need for an audit on the current condition of reservoirs which will fall under the new legislation and the financial implications the requirements could pose for reservoir owners.
Speaking after the publication of the report, Committee Chairperson Paul Frew MLA said: “There can be no doubt that in order to manage the risk of flooding and the dangers this can pose to public safety, specific legislation to control, regulate and manage the safety of reservoirs is crucial.
“However, the Committee has been very clear from the outset, that the proposed legislation while mitigating danger and managing risk must not impose unnecessary administrative and financial burdens on reservoir owners that are not proportionate to actual risk”
Mr Frew continued: “One of our main concerns about the legislation as it currently stands is the lack of existing empirical evidence on the state of repair of reservoirs falling under the legislation. For that reason we are calling on the department to ensure that a thorough audit is carried out to ascertain the condition and likely costs of bringing these reservoirs up to an acceptable standard of public safety.
“We are also very clear, that much more needs to be done to ensure that reservoir owners, particularly those in the private and third sectors who are unable to meet the financial demands of carrying out necessary works, are protected. The Committee has pressed the Department to ensure that grant aid is made available to cover the costs of initial assessments and reports and that discretion is used in relation to cost recovery. We are pleased that the Department has taken these concerns on board and has agreed to propose amendments to the legislation accordingly.”
Committee Deputy Chairperson Joe Byrne MLA added: “As with any new Bill, it is essential that we ensure that the final legislation will be effective and fit for purpose. We have spent over 16 weeks scrutinising this important Bill and have taken evidence from a wide range of stakeholders in the public, private and third sectors.
“The Committee has raised particular concerns around risk designation and classification. We believe that as it currently stands, this element of the legislation is misleading in that it categorises risk in terms of potential impact but fails to take into account any measures reservoir owners may take to mitigate that risk. We have therefore called on the Department to ensure that the implementation of maintenance and safety controls is taken into account in terms of overall risk assessment and designation. We are pleased that proposed amendments have come forward from the Department even if these were received too late to allow a full and detailed scrutiny.
Mr. Byrne concluded: “We are confident that the issues raised in our report have been taken on board by Minister O’ Neill. If the Minister addresses these as suggested by the Committee, it will go a long way towards ensuring that the final legislation will provide necessary protection for the public while allowing us to continue to enjoy the cultural and economic benefits provided by reservoirs”
Listen to Paul Frew talking about the report: