Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Muir welcomes plans to save Stewart's Place Holywood

1 Stewart's Place in derelict state
Lacuna Developments has been confirmed as new owners of 1 Stewart's Place, Holywood who have described the building as a "key gateway to the seaside town's High Street" and committed to works to get the road re-opened and building secured. The site acquired includes the former Old Priory Inn and 1 Stewart's Place, a listed building.

In response, I have welcomed the news. After relentlessly campaigning on this issue since structural problems started to appear in June last year I warmly welcome news the new owners plan to take prompt action to get the road re-opened and hopefully save the historic building which is perilously close to collapse after years of neglect by the previous owner.  
I have already made contact with the new owners and hope to meet with them in the weeks ahead along with representatives of Holywood Conservation Group to discuss the way forward. With a structural engineer from London with a conservation background, project architect, conservation architect and planning consultant already engaged and the new owners seemingly willing to make the necessary investment I am cautiously optimistic that Holywood traders will soon be able to get back to business following months of needless disruption which has also inconvenienced local residents and visitors alike.

A more hopeful future also seems at last be ahead for the listed building which ought to be in the same condition as its nearby twin Number 3 Stewart's Place which is in pristine condition following previous intervention when also at risk of downfall. Time will tell whether it can be saved.

Managing Director, Anthony Best has stated:

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Progress at last for 1 Stewart's Place saga

1 Stewart's Place, Holywood
Ever since problems started to arise with the structural integrity of 1 Stewart’s Place in June last year I have been relentlessly campaigning for a prompt solution. Following partial collapse in July 2016 local businesses, residents and visitors have had to endure full and then partial closure of the busy Bangor Road, damaging trade and causing great inconvenience whilst building left to deteriorate and home to an infestation of rats which has caused misery for local householders.

I am therefore encouraged to learn that new owners of the building seem willing to engage to fix the historic building and get the road re-opened as soon as possible. This does however have to be tapered with previous experience which has been characterised by foot dragging and broken promises which has left many people rightly angry. 

Following my previous proposal that Council explore all options to get the road re-opened I was glad to see the Council’s Environment Committee recently receive a comprehensive report detailing a range of avenues available to get the issue sorted. Whilst seek to meet with the new owners I intend to follow up on this report and hopefully get deadlines for initiation of the various options to prevent any further drift. The time for action has long passed with deadlines vital to get things moving and new owner forced to sort what’s sadly fast become known as Holywood’s House from Hell.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Muir continues battle to end Stewart's Place saga

1 Stewart's Place, Holywood
I am continuing the battle to end the saga associated with 1 Stewart’s Place, Holywood which has remained in a perilous state of dereliction since July last year, resulting in the closure of the adjacent Bangor Road.

After successfully bringing my proposal to Council late last year requesting officers urgently bring back a report on options available for statutory intervention to enable full re-opening of Bangor Road further developments have occurred. I understand that the site has now been sold and specialists engaged by the new owners to examine how the building may by fixed with plans now due to the submitted which will result in the road being fully re-opened. Officers are also actively considering serving a notice requiring action to address the condition of the building within a specified period of time.

Whilst these developments are welcome I am not relenting and have also been pressurising Transport NI to exert their influence as the authority permitting partial closure of the road. A further report on the range of options available to Council will be tabled in the weeks ahead including hopefully the option to service an Urgent Works Notice which would involve Council directly intervening to fix the building and then billing the owner. Together via this wide range of actions I hope to see resolution of this disgraceful saga which has resulted in great inconvenience for local residents, visitors and detrimental impact upon local traders. Holywood has had enough and needs the road re-opened and building sorted without any more delay and buck passing.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Muir delighted Kinnegar sewage solution delivered

Councillor Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I welcome the completion of the works at Kinnegar designed to improve sewerage infrastructure in Holywood and eliminate notoriously pungent smell.

Work along the Belfast Road in Holywood was completed on December 15, with a combined sewer overflow diverted away from Kinnegar Lagoons and the new waste water pumping station becoming fully operational.

I first started this campaign nearly seven years ago in response to the awful stench of sewage affecting nearby residents and passing road and rail traffic but I am now hopeful the completed work will mean the frequency and severity of odours coming from the lagoons will be reduced dramatically. It has been a long journey to reach this point involving lobbying NI Water, respective Government Ministers and getting the EU Environment Commissioner involved but through hard work and dogged determination I managed to secure £4.5million funding and get the works undertaken.

I want to thank all the statutory agencies which have worked to secure this scheme and local people who endured the disruption whilst works occurred. As well as having a positive impact on the environment, local people will hope this move will bring them comfort. I expect this will provide the much-needed relief they deserve. Assurances have also been received that the Kinnegar Lagoons will be enabled to return to the original state following the disgraceful pollution which NI Water allowed to occur destroying the scenic habitat previously enjoyed by a wide range of wildlife.

NI Water updates below:

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Muir drives up eCar Charger provision

New Dual eCharger Car Bays at Quay Street, Bangor
I warmly welcome provision of an additional Electric Car Charging Bay at the popular Quay Street charging point in Bangor after campaigning for an extra parking space in light of the high demand experienced for the charger.

For over a year I have been lobbying the Department for Infrastructure to provide an additional eCar Charging Bay at Quay Street, Bangor after users contacted me detailing the demand. Despite the request being initially denied, together I preserved with the support of many users and am delighted to see two dedicated eCar Parking Bays now provided.

With the Quay Street eCar charging point already offering ability to charge two vehicles at once but only one dedicated eCar Parking Bay previously provided the frustration of users was obvious with many previously unable to charge up due to the other bays being occupied by conventional vehicles. Through the dogged determination of the users concerned to outline the economic and environmental benefits involved together we have achieved a small but important step towards a greener and cleaner future. I look forward to exploring other opportunities to boost eCar Charger provision across the Borough.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Fighting to end Holywood building collapse saga

1 Stewart's Place, Holywood with road partially closed
I have been continuing the fight to end the saga associated with collapse of 1 Stewart’s Place building in Holywood with the nearby road remaining partially closed for nearly five months following the collapse of the historic building.

Following initial collapse on 21 July 2016 a saga has unfolded with the Bangor Road fully closed for six weeks only to be replaced by traffic lights which still remain in place today, impeding access to Holywood Town Centre. Whilst one side of the building has been shored up the other side remains fully exposed to the elements with further bits of masonry falling off in recent days.

After endless delays and hollow promises of action I was sadly left with no other option but to bring a motion to our local Council calling for action. It is extremely frustrating to witness no further progress on the issue despite Ards and North Down having new powers to intervene. Recent news that the building is now infested with rats who have been scurrying into local homes merely adds fuel to the sense of anger felt by many, compounded by news nothing seemingly can be done to deal with the rat infestation because the building is considered unsafe. Local residents and businesses have suffered for too long with this enduring saga which is fast becoming a scandal and byword for inaction, buck passing and shrugging of shoulders.

I was therefore glad to receive unanimous support from the Council’s Environment Committee on Wednesday 7 December 2016 for my Motion calling upon officers to bring back a range of options to rectify the situation and urging Transport NI to use their influence to end the owners right to keep the road partially closed.

Whilst full responsibility remains with the building’s owner who has shamefully neglected to sort the issue and inflicted great inconvenience upon Holywood without seemingly a shred of embarrassment Council’s responsibility in relation to this matter must extend beyond mere merely Health and Safety duties. With new powers to serve Urgent Works Notices Ards and North Down Borough Council has the tools available and should not stand idly by whilst trade is damaged, visitors turn away from Holywood Town Centre during the busy Christmas Shopping Season, rats infiltrate local people’s homes and a Listed Building slowly disintegrates.