AN upgrade of part of South Belfast’s aging sewage system has been pushed forward thanks to millions of pound pumped into the project from the Stormont Executive.

Homes in areas such as Sicily Park have been swamped with sewage water three times in recent weeks due to flooding, with NI Water claiming the much-needed upgrade to help the system cope with heavy downpours would not begin for many years.

However, last week it was announced that £10 million was being released from Stormont to help areas prone to flooding.

A local MLA welcomed the “relief” this would offer South Belfast residents who fear for their homes every time it rains.

SDLP Assemblyman Conal McDevitt said that the cash could see work begin on strengthening the sewers within a year, rather than the three years previously predicted by NI Water.

“We are hoping that the new system will basically be double the capacity of what we have now, which will bring a huge sigh of relief from many homes from Finaghy down to Balmoral,” he said.

“We would like to see ground being broke on this within 10 months or so, whereas before this money was offered, the starting date was up to three years away.

“The underlying issue for places like Sicily, which have flooded frequently recently, is the age of the system, and it’s clear that in very heavy rain it just can’t cope. In the meantime, all relevant agencies need to remain alert in helping those homes still at risk.”

Meanwhile, when asked for a starting date for the works, a spokeswoman for NI Water said: “We are currently liaising to clarify how much of the £10 million will be available to NI Water.”