Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Let's change our politics for good on 2 March

Councillor Muir and Dr Stephen Farry
 2 March voters will go to the polls for the Northern Ireland Assembly Election following the collapse of the DUP / Sinn Fein Executive only months after promising a ‘Fresh Start’.

I am looking forward to voting Alliance for my friend, colleague and Party Deputy Leader Dr Stephen Farry who is the Alliance Party candidate in North Down.

I hope people will do likewise choosing hope over fear, grasping the opportunity to change our politics for good towards a more progressive and liberal future for everyone.

After only recently commencing my new job I am not on the ticket this time but have been working hard to secure re-election of Stephen and continuing to work with the same passion and vigour as local Councillor for Holywood & Clandeboye and Alliance Party Group Leader on Ards & North Down Borough Council.

A strong Alliance vote and the re-election of Dr Stephen Farry is vital if we are to secure a new Assembly which heralds change, for good. Without a strong commitment to respect, equality, reconciliation, partnership working and reform of the Petition of Concern veto which has blocked many measures public confidence in the Assembly risks falling even further. Only by voting Farry 1 will we help ensure and end to dogma, deadlock and sickening bigotry espoused for far too long.

Commenting on the issue, Stephen Farry remarked: “Our politics is badly broken, with an absence of openness and accountability, cronyism and corruption, deadlock and missed opportunities. The Renewable Heat Initiative crystallised these problems, but they run much deeper. This is bigger than problems with the DUP and Sinn Fein partnership, it is a weakness of Orange and Green politics.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Muir returns Craigavad Post Box stalemate to sender

Cllr Muir at previous site of Post Box
I am planning to return the Craigavad Post Box stalemate to the sender by submitting a Motion seeking Council support for my campaign to get Royal Mail reinstate the popular Post Box at Station Road, Craigavad.

Craigavad has been without a Post Box for the last few months after a freak accident which saw a lorry collide with the red box. Since then many people have signed the petition I initiated and forwarded numerous letters of support but to no avail with Royal Mail remaining intransigent and refusing to replace the popular facility despite the kind offer by a local resident to accommodate a new replacement Post Box on their Station Road property near where the box was originally located.

Royal Mail’s recent announcement of plans to install 300 new boxes across Northern Ireland merely added insult to injury and confirmation of a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ strategy with Craigavad left to suffer whilst others get a brand new red boxes.  Suggestion that local people now travel back in time to the Ulster Folk Museum to post a letter is frankly ludicrous.  

With Royal Mail unwilling to meet to discuss the issue I am determined to break the stalemate and have therefore lodged a Motion for discussion at Ards and North Down Borough Council, calling upon the Council to write to Royal Mail requesting replacement of the Post Box. I hope all other Councillors will be able to give my motion the stamp of approval, Royal Mail reconsiders their stance and gives the people of Craigavad the First Class service they deserve.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Foundations laid for historic gatelodge’s refurb

Councillor Muir at Craigowen Lodge
warmly welcome news the Historic Gate Lodge beside the busy A2 Bangor to Belfast Road at Seahill has been formally purchased by a Housing Association with restoration soon to commence.

I have been campaigning to save the building for the last number of years since it fell into disrepair after being previously vested by the Roads Service as part of a previous road upgrade which never materialised.

After lobbying the Roads and Housing Ministers for the last number of years to save this listed building I am delighted to learn that Clanmill Housing Association's Hearth Heritage Division have now purchased Craigowen Lodge with plans to restore the building now forming part of their 2017/18 Programme.

With Planning Permission already in place finalisation of funding remains the only possible stumbling block plus any unforeseen statutory issues which I hope can be quickly addressed.

I have therefore written to the Finance Minister to ensure funding is provided and hope the year ahead will mark yet another Built Heritage success story to be enjoyed both by future residents and passing commuters.

Craigowen Lodge is a single storey listed building in Italianate style. Built in 1851 and designed by Thomas Turner, a previous pupil of architect Charles Lanyon.

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.