Wednesday, 19 April 2000
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Glynn: I thank the Minister of State for attending the House to take this Adjournment matter, which calls on the Minister for the Environment and Local Government to provide a sewerage scheme of the Robinstown area of Mullingar. This area is on the periphery of Mullingar and is adjacent to the new Mullingar bypass. It has implications for the development of the area on the north side of the town.
The matter is concerned with the surface water and foul drainage for Robinstown and the impact of surface water discharge to the River Brosna, which flows through the town. There is a real possibility of flooding, which occurred on two occasions in the past 20 years and caused major damage.
The issue also concerns the overall sewerage network and its capacity to extend beyond the current service area. We have a combined system in parts of the town where the surface water and the foul sewer flow into the one system. In other parts of the town the storm gullies overflow and this water flows into the Brosna and into Lough Ennell. This is something we want to prevent at all costs. The situation does not allow for development in the Robinstown area and will hinder the overall enactment of the Robinstown action plan which has been considered and will be considered further by Westmeath County Council.
The overall area concerned is very large and is situated between the Castlepollard and Delvin roads. Westmeath County Council wishes to con duct a survey of the town and its environs. Funding will have to be provided by the Department of the Environment and Local Government for this study. Furthermore, one of the oldest local authority schemes in the town is in the Robinstown area. Much of the development which has taken place to date is serviced by septic tanks, although some houses, such as those in Sherwood Park, an estate in the locality, have been serviced by the main trunk sewer. The water table in the area is especially high.
To complement housing and industrial development, it is imperative that money be provided for the study to which I have referred and for a sewerage scheme which, I hope, will come about in the fullness of time. I hope the Minister of State will have good news when he responds.
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt): I thank Senator Glynn for raising this matter. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, is unable to be in the House to respond and has asked me to do so on his behalf.
The provision of modern environmental infrastructure to support our economic objectives is a high priority of the Government. This has been and continues to be well demonstrated by the huge level of investment in water and sanitary services throughout the country. In 1999 spending reached £275 million. This represented an increase of 50% over 1998 and double the 1996 figure and was by far the highest ever annual provision for water services infrastructure.
The prospects for future investment are equally positive. Under the new national development plan almost £3 billion has been earmarked for the provision of new and upgraded water supply and waste water treatment projects between now and 2006. This is a threefold increase on the total spend under the 1994-99 plan. The Minister will shortly announce details of the water services investment programme for the period 2000-02 which will set the Government's medium-term strategy for addressing the infrastructural needs of our still growing economy.
County Westmeath has benefited substantially from higher spending on water services in recent years. Improved services for the towns of Moate and Tyrrellspass have recently been completed while schemes are in progress in Athlone and Mullingar. As part of the Government's serviced land initiative, proposals in respect of Kinnegad, Coosan and an extension to the drainage area adjacent to Mullingar have been approved.
As regards Robinstown, a brief for the extension of the Mullingar sewerage scheme to include this area was drawn up by the council and submitted to the Department in 1999. At that stage the scheme fell to be reassessed by the council as part of the review of capital needs which the Department asked each local authority to carry out to  assist in the preparation of the National Development Plan 2000 to 2006.
While the Robinstown proposal was included in the assessment of needs subsequently prepared by Westmeath County Council, unfortunately the assessment failed to assign relative priorities to individual schemes as had been requested by the Department. Decisions on allocating capital funding to the county under the three year water ser vices investment programme to be announced shortly will, therefore, have to be taken without the benefit of the council having identified its priorities. Nonetheless, Senator Glynn's comments will be taken into account in making further decisions on this matter.
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