FLOODS STRIKE NORTH DOWN

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BLOCKED drains across Bangor added to the devastating floods caused by torrential rainfall over the weekend, claims a North Down MLA.

Heavy rain over the weekend left a number of roads in the Bangor area impassable due to flooding, following a number of weather warnings, which continued into the start of the week.

The heavy rain, which followed two yellow weather warnings by the Met Office on Saturday, resulted in the forced closure of Bangor Train Station when it began flooding.

Ards and North Down councillors took to social media to warn motorists about impassable roads due to pools of water at areas such as Windmill Road, Donaghadee; Moss Road, Millisle; Old Road and Springwell Road, Groomsport; Six Road Ends to Four Road Ends and the Glenburn Park area of Ballyholme.

Further flooding was reported in the Bangor residential areas of Pinehill Gardens, Pinehill Avenue, Briarwood Drive, Silverbirch Road and Ballycrochan Road.

However, despite the heavy rainfall, North Down MLA Alex Easton claims that a lot of the flooding which occurred over the weekend was due to blocked drains across North Down, believing the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to have been ill-prepared.

Mr Easton said: “There was no doubt the weather has been atrocious and the rainfall has been pretty constant, which has led to the large level flooding that we have seen across North Down.

“However, I feel that DfI Roads were just not ready for this weather and there should have been forward planning.”

He added that had the gullies and drains in the area been free from blockages, it would have helped to disperse the torrential rainfall.

“DfI really need to learn lessons from this, as more bad weather is on its way and I trust they will.”

North Down MLA Alan Chambers however stated that while the drain blockages ‘contributed’ to the flooding devastation over the weekend, he believed the main issue to be that they were not designed to cope with that volume of rainfall.

“Last Saturday was probably the most sustained and heavy rainfall witnessed in the North Down area for a very long time,” the UUP MLA stated.

“Usually the intensity of such rainfall only lasts for short periods and then eases off. However, as we all witnessed it just continued to fall for a very long time with no let up.”

Mr Chambers said a number of houses were ‘under threat of flooding’ in Groomsport, adding that access in and out of the village ‘became dangerous’ due to flash flooding blocking the Springwell Road, a stretch of the Groomsport by-pass and the Bangor Road.

“These blockages continued to cause issues well into the evening until the drains were eventually cleared to allow the surface water to subside. Fields around the village formed large lakes that were still in place in the days after the weekend,” he continued.

“Thankfully no property locally was damaged by floodwater although a few motorists experienced car problems when trying to negotiate through flood water that was quite deep in parts. “

Noting the suspended Assembly, budgetary constraints and issues with external contractors, Mr Chambers added: “The absence of routine and regular gully cleaning by the Department for Infrastructure undoubtedly contributed to many of the problems and is something that I have been trying to force the department to address.”

However Mr Chambers said ‘blame’ could not be ‘fully attributed to blocked drains’.

“The main problem seemed to be the sheer volume of rainfall during the ongoing deluge flowing into a drainage system that was never designed for such an event, and with the capacity of the infrastructure just unable to cope,” he stated.

Ards and North Down Council activated its Emergency Plan over the weekend due to the inclement weather, working alongside a number of agencies including the PSNI, the Met Office, Northern Ireland Fire Service, DFI Roads and DFI Rivers.

Residents can now avail of support from council officers in accessing funding under SEFA, the Scheme of Emergency Financial Assistance which aids householders who have suffered severe inconvenience as a result of internal flooding to their properties. 

More information about the scheme can be accessed at:  https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/circular-lg-222023-scheme-emergency-financial-assistance-sefa-district-councils-flooding-17-october

There are four sandbag locations at ‘coastal hotspots’ in the borough at Groomsport, Ballywalter, Portavogie and Portaferry.

The sandbag supplies were depleted over the weekend, however some remain at all four locations.

The council have requested additional sandbags from DfI, but given the weather warning across Northern Ireland, resources are limited and under ‘extreme pressure at present’.