A NORTH Down MLA is calling on the authorities to close a loophole that leaves the government powerless to act in some cases of floods striking people’s homes.

Roads bosses in Stormont’s Department for Infrastructure (DfI) can intervene to tackle water run-off from privately owned fields – but only when the floods hit part of the public roads network.

If privately owned fields flood into nearby homes or gardens, however, the government can’t do anything.

UUP Assemblyman Alan Chambers has branded that state of affairs a legal loophole that he wants sewn shut, arguing that it leaves householders at risk.

“There is clearly a gap in the legislation that needs plugged,” he said. “Flooding is becoming more common; in recent storms, several areas that aren’t normally prone to it have been hit.”

The example he brings up is Springwell Road in Groomsport. During last month’s storms, water flooded from uphill fields in the area, across the road itself and into the gardens of several homes.

And, said the MLA, householders to the rear of the fields found floods continued to pour into their properties for several days after the storm had passed.

“This was a frightening ordeal for residents frantically trying to stop the water getting into their houses,” said Mr Chambers.

DfI officials checked the area and said they’d issue warning notices to landowners, ordering them to sort out any issues that might cause water to spill from the fields onto the road.

But they also said they had no power to act over floods from private land into houses that are also privately owned.

Said Mr Chambers: “I am sure that the situation facing householders on Springwell Road is also occurring throughout Northern Ireland, with the law neither offering protection nor allowing any intervention.

“Despite there being no Assembly sitting at this time, I have submitted a private members bill to have this debated as a matter of urgency when Stormont starts to operate again.”

A DfI spokeswoman confirmed that officials only have power to act when the roads network is hit by flooding from privately-owned fields, and not people’s homes.

“Regrettably, the department does not have any power to act [when flooding] does not involve a departmental asset, such as a public road,” she said.

“The department has visited Springwell Road on occasions over the past number of months and each time drainage systems have been clear and flowing.

“As a precautionary measure, the department has arranged to have drainage gullies cleaned and lines jetted at Springwell Road area to ensure they are operating at maximum capacity.

“Water run-off from areas of private land has however been identified. As part of the investigation and solution, we are identifying landowners and will serve an enforcement notice to take necessary action to prevent further illegal discharge of water onto the public road.”