A BILL that gives the Water and Sewerage Authority powers to co-ordinate flood risk management has been given its second reading in the House of Keys.
Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority, John Houghton (Douglas North), said legislation was necessary to replace the Land Drainage Act 1934, which he described as ‘archaic’ and ‘limited in scope’.
It’s not the first time the Flood Risk Management Bill has been debated.
It came before the island was again hit by another deluge of water, which led to a number of problems on Wednesday (February 13).
The bill reached the clauses reading of the House of Keys before being withdrawn by the authority’s then chairman, Tim Crookall MHK, to enable discussions to take place with the Manx National Farmers’ Union in relation to their concerns about the bill.
Mr Houghton said: ‘Those discussions have taken place and the bill has been revised accordingly. The main concerns expressed by the Manx National Farmers’ Union have been largely addressed.’
Under the bill, it would be the authority’s responsibility to manage flood risk – inland and coastal – by identifying areas at particular risk of flooding, publishing strategies and plans for appropriate flood protection works, and providing flood warning arrangements.
The bill would strengthen the authority’s powers of entry onto land. It would have the power to make an order to designate flood risk management works or watercourses it considers to be of major importance.
The land would remain under the ownership of the land owners ‘who will continue to be able to use it in the normal way (e.g. for grazing of animals), but following designation the land would be subject to certain restrictions’.
The authority will be required to give 21 days’ prior notice to land owners of its intention to carry out works etc, except in an emergency.
Initially, land owners could have faced up to two years’ custody for carrying out restricted activities without the authority’s consent. Following representations from the MNFU, the penalty would be a fine.
Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK welcomed the bill, saying: ‘This is a very important bill as far as I’m concerned. All of us will have witnessed in the last 12 to 18 months exceptional periods of wet weather which have caused practical difficulties to many around the island.’
Douglas East MHK Brenda Cannell was the only member to vote against. She said a clause requiring the Department of Infrastructure planners to consider the extent to which the development may create a significant risk of flooding ‘does not appear to be robust enough’.
Ramsey MHK Leonard Singer also raised his concern about the clause.