Improving the standards of Northern Ireland’s infrastructure is integral to its fledgling economic recovery, ICE Northern Ireland’s State of the Nation report said last week.
The report grades different sectors of Northern Ireland’s infrastructure using an A to E system, where an A grade is “fit for future” and an E grade represents “not fit for purpose”.
No aspect of Northern Ireland’s infrastructure received a “fit for future” A grading, although the transport sector provided some optimism, scoring a credible grade B or “adequate for now”. Water, waste, flooding and the energy sectors all scored a grade C, or “requiring attention”.
ICE Northern Ireland director Wendy Blundell said: “Studies by the Treasury and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development have shown that good infrastructure results in good positive growth. While we are realistic that the scale of the imminent public spending cuts will have an immense impact on Northern Ireland’s investment strategy, the longer term view must be considered.”
Energy: Grade C
There is much scope for improvement within this sector, both to increase the security of our supply and also to meet our obligations under European law in relation to the generation of renewable energy. Joined up strategic policies within local government are necessary if these EU targets are to be met.
Transport: Grade B
The transport sector received the highest score, although there is still much room for improvement. Developments on key transport connections such as the A1 section of the route between Belfast and Dublin are key in attracting inward investment. The development of ports such as at Larne and the Warrenpoint harbour will further increase the ability of Northern Ireland to do business with the rest of the UK and indeed mainland Europe.
Water & wastewater: Grade C
Infrastructure in this sector is largely adequate but will require increased maintenance as it ages. Northern Ireland Water has effected improvement in the quality of drinking water, bridging the quality and customer satisfaction gaps between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, with the quality of drinking water increasing to 99.66%.
Waste management : Grade C
Difficult political decisions need to be made concerning waste from energy schemes, such as arc21’s previously proposed mechanical biological treatment facility. Greater access to bottle banks, roadside recycling schemes and household recycling centres combined with continued awareness training should help see Northern Ireland meet the Waste Framework, requiring a 50% recycling rate, by 2020.
Flooding: Grade D
The increased intensity of extreme events has demonstrated the clear need for proactive flood risk management. The establishment of a Flooding Taskforce by the Northern Ireland executive and the production of strategic flood maps are positive developments. “Prepare, protect and prevent” is the mantra for the approach to future flood risk management.