Wastewater capacity holding back construction of up to 19,000 homes

Construction Employers Federation calls for reform of water infrastructure funding model and a coordinated, sustainable approach to planning…

Up to 8,450 homes totalling almost £1bn of investment are currently in limbo due to wastewater capacity constraints in Northern Ireland, according to a recent member survey by the Construction Employers Federation (CEF).

And taken together with proposed projects by housing associations and other developers, the figure rises to as many as 19,000 homes.

CEF’s survey reinforces the findings of a new report published by the NI Audit Office (NIAO), Funding water infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

It finds lack of capacity is holding back housing and development in 100 areas including 25 cities and towns.

Both CEF and NIAO are calling for reform of the current funding model, and adoption of a more coordinated and sustainable approach to infrastructure planning.

Responding to a recent NI Assembly debate, Addressing NI Water Challenges, CEF Chief Executive Mark Spence said, “Against a backdrop of a 60-year low of housing completions in 2023 and an ever-growing social housing waiting list, it is unquestionable that we are therefore in the middle of a housing crisis in Northern Ireland.

“Given the NI Executive’s one-year capital budget of £1.8bn for 2024/25 – the same in cash terms as some 17 years ago – and a recurrent need from NI Water from this of at least £500m per annum for the next decade, the Executive must face the urgent reality that the overall settlement goes nowhere near the level required in order to deliver many of the key projects which are likely to form part of a Programme for Government, never mind NI Water’s PC21 and PC27 programmes.

“Coming on the back of the recent NI Audit Office report on Funding water infrastructure in Northern Ireland which called for a ‘comprehensive review of alternative arrangements, led by suitably qualified experts’, it is therefore crucial that all parties take forward a fundamental review of the governance and funding model of NI Water with full consideration of options like mutualisation.

“Without this, and in the clear context of the Executive’s declining Block Grant capital expenditure, we are putting a major inhibitor on economic growth and also removing from an entire generation the prospect of a home to call their own.

That is a damning indictment of any government and it is one that, in Northern Ireland’s case, has been entirely predictable but for which we can no longer neglect finding a solution.”

Reviewing how investment has been managed since the establishment of NI Water in 2007, the NIAO report notes it inherited a network of assets suffering from lower levels of investment than other regions of the UK.

NI Water has since struggled to secure the level of investment in water infrastructure required to deliver services.

To view the report in full, visit: