THE Pumping Station development in Newcastle has been ringfenced to the tune of £13 million and the decision by Minister Kennedy has been warmly welcomed.
At the first full meeting of Down District Council back in June, Newcastle SDLP councillor Carmel O’Boyle introduced an emergency notice of motion calling on the new Minister for Regional Development Danny Kennedy to ringfence funding to pay for the upgrade to the Pumping Station at Newcastle Harbour.
Newcastle has been at the centre of much discussion recently after its beaches failed a water quality test and lost Blue Flag status. However, the local traders and community have demanded that this issue be grabbed by the horns and sorted out before it seriously impacts on Newcastle’s tourist trade.
Councillor O’Boyle said, “The cost of this upgrade will be in the region of £13 million and if Newcastle is ever to achieve Blue Flag status, and if development is to resume in the town, we needed to get assurances from the Stormont Executive that this money would be secured for us.
“I am now delighted to report that in a letter received in July from the Minister’s office, we have been given these assurances and have been told that the money will be available for these works to be carried out in Newcastle.
“Northern Ireland Water has confirmed that it is progressing and has already completed upgrading elements of Newcastle’s sewerage system. NIW will commence improvement works to the wastewater treatment works before the end of this year. The work on the sewerage system included upgrading of pumping stations, provision of attenuation tanks to hold storm flows, sewer repairs, stormwater overflow rationalisation including screening upgrades.
“Plans for the major upgrading of the existing wastewater treatment works situated at the harbour area remains, according to the Minister, a high priority, and work is being progressed to bring this project to site.
“NIW has recently advertised the Project in OJEU , seeking expressions of interest from contractors, from which a Restricted List for Tendering will be drawn up. It is expected that the contract will be awarded and work will commence before the end of 2011 and it should be completed by May 2013, immediately prior to that year’s Bathing Season sampling period.
“The treatment works upgrade will involve extending the existing structure to provide storm storage, inter-stage pumping, the provision of tertiary filters, UV
disinfection, and standby generation. Disinfection of the final effluent prior to discharge during the summer season will enhance the quality of the bathing waters. Maintenance work to the terminal pumping station located within the harbour complex will be carried out at the same time. As people will already be aware, the holding tank in Castle Park, is one element of the comprehensive upgrading of the sewerage infrastructure in Newcastle.
“I hope that everyone in Newcastle understands the significance and importance of this promise from the Minister. The Achilles Heel in our town has been the weakness of sewerage infrastructure. Once this work has been completed in 2013, so many possibilities will be opened up for us. Our bathing waters should show a marked improvement and we can at last go after Blue Flag status.
“People whose planning applications have been put on hold, particularly those people wanting to build individual homes should be given the go-ahead. This is a multi-million pound project which, in the present economic climate, will be a great gift to the people of Newcastle and I am delighted with the undertaking given by the Minister in response to our letter to him in June.
“We are now about to embark on the implementation of our Conservation Plan for the Harbour in Newcastle, so we could not have received better news,” added Cllr O’Boyle.
Newcastle Chamber Call For Action Over Sewage Works
Newcastle Chamber of Commerce President Audrey Bryne has witten a stiff letter on behalf of the 70+ traders to Down District Council calling for support for the belleguerd business community who may suffer in the long term if visitors voted with their feet due to poor water quality in the local beaches. In the letter Mrs Byrne said,
“We need to start our quest again immediately for the Blue Flag. It is a long process and indeed could take 4/5 years after we achieve high quality water… Newcastle has had millions spent o the Streetscape and teh beach is a disgrace.
“We aim for Newcastle to be the Number One tourist destination. It is vital to our town’s economy that this initiative be implemented as soon as possible.
“With the Review of Public Adminsitration just around the corner, there has never been more urgency to keep Newcastle ‘up there’ and we need our beach cleaned.”
Speaking to Down News after the Council Enviromental Committee meeting (Wednesday 2nd August), Mrs Byrne said, “I welcome the ringfencing of the £13 million for the pumping station. This is a major step forward.
“We really need now to be working hard together to get our Blue Flag back. In the meantime we can be ticking all the right boxes. The whole town is supporting the Chamber of Commerce on this. A beach clean up would go a long way to improving it for our tourists and we can keep a long-term aim of winning back our flag which is so important to the tourist industry in Newcastle.”