Time to act after town is hit by more flooding

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A series of meetings aimed at preventing the severe flooding which submerged businesses and homes in Magherafelt is expected to take place over the coming days.

An urgent meeting of Magherafelt Town Centre Forum is also expected to be called to discuss the recent flooding and ways to tackle it in future.

Politicians from the main parties have been on the ground talking to those affected by Friday‘s downpour which resulted in the closure of Meadowlane shopping centre and traffic diversions.

Most agreed that the sewage and storm water drainage capacity needed to be reviewed along with environmental health issues.

Most businesses were up and running on Saturday in Meadowlane after an overnight clean-up, but a few remained closed.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said: “The drainage simply didn’t seem to be working properly and Rivers Section will be carrying out further follow up work shortly.

“We will be keeping on top of this issue as many thought that after work was carried out previously by the agencies that we shouldn’t be facing these sorts of problems again.”

DUP MLA Keith Buchanan commended those within the community who dealt with the needy and gave support during the floods.

He said he along with colleagues Cllrs Paul McLean and Anne Forde, had met with management of the shopping centre and are scheduled to hold a site meeting with NI Water.

“I welcome commitment that the Rivers Agency will leaving sandbags at two properties on a permanent basis to reassure residents in case of future incidents,” he added.

Sinn Féin Sinn Féin councillor, Darren Totten said: “It is well past the time for the Department of Infrastructure to be taking the problem of flooding in Magherafelt seriously and to deliver the necessary work programme to have this problem rectified.

“Having spent time is all areas of the town affected alongside Rivers Agency personnel, it is obvious that the same problems remain which were also the cause of previous incidents of flooding, without any action having been taken.

“I will be scheduling meetings with all relevant statutory agencies over the coming days and weeks so as to have the need for immediate action placed highly on the agendas of key officials. The time for action is now.”

Ulster Unionist councillor George Shiels said a multi- agency approach is needed to prevent flooding.

“The volume of rain that fell on Magherafelt last Friday evening was unprecedented. Although the downpour fell over a relatively short period of time, the drainage system obviously couldn’t cope, it didn’t come near to coping.

“I believe the road needs to be raised at the junction of Queen’s Avenue and Moneymore Road and the footpath at this point also needs to be altered to prevent large tonnages of water being disgorged into Meadowlane shopping centre at the underground car park. This would be an interim measure which may help short term.”

Councillor Shiels said questions must be asked regarding the capacity of storm water and sewage drains on the Moneymore Road and how this affects Westland Road and Meadowlane.

“Another concern is that with all the water sloshing around after such a deluge as last Friday’s, then the possibility of cross contamination from sewage has to be considered as a health issue,” he continued.

He also expressed concern about the economic and financial consequences for business owners and home owners if further flooding occurred.

“This is a good Centre and has ongoing economic potential, however this latest flooding incident does nothing to instil confidence in business leaders considering relocating retail business venture to Magherafelt town,” he added.

A Departmental spokesperson said: “Yellow weather warnings were in place for heavy rain for the weekend of Friday and Saturday the 1st and 2nd June. As a result the Department for Infrastructure placed staff on standby to respond to any impacts as needed.

“On Friday 1st June DfI staff responded to a number of flooding reports in the Magherafelt area, providing sandbags to some properties at risk of flooding and cleared gullies and grilles to prevent further incidents.”