Thursday, 5 December 2019

Muir achieves Council support to encourage more upcycling, repair cafes and zero waste shops


Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
I welcome decision by the Council's Environment Committee to unanimously endorse my proposal to encourage more upcycling, repair cafes and zero waste shops.

I presented my Motion seeking to build upon the great achievements made to date by our officers in the recycle agenda as part of the wider reduce, reuse and recycle strategy.

As we move into the next phase of our Waste Management efforts I took the opportunity to look at what's happening elsewhere and found a number of examples of how we could pursue the reuse agenda, conscious of some of the arrangements already in place. Ability to, for example, drop off redundant bicycles and appliances at Household Recycling Centres for subsequent refurbishment is already in place and extremely popular but there's more we could do.

Seeing how repair cafes operate elsewhere it would be great to see if we could trial one here in our Borough allowing people to bring items to get fixed rather than consigning them as waste.

Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
"Repair Cafés are free meeting places and about repairing things together. In the place where a Repair Café is located, you'll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need. On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, etc. You'll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields." From https://repaircafe.org/en/

Opportunities for more upcycling would also be great, whether it be of clothes or furniture. My Mum and Sister manage to do all sorts of wonderful upcycling themselves but are keen to explore how to do more. Classes, events and other ways can make the process much easier.

Furniture upcycled by my Mum and Sister
In terms of zero waste shops, I have started to see these pop-up outside our Borough and hope officers can see what we can do locally to encourage more in Ards and North Down.

As we hopefully start to turn back from being a throwaway society I hope Council can provide residents with the tools to reuse items rather than seeing them go into the bin.

Motion presented by Alderman Muir and passed by Environment Committee on 4 December 2019, subject to ratification by Full Council meeting on 18 December 2019.  "That this Council asks officers to bring back a report on current range of services offered enabling reuse of items which otherwise would end up treated as waste and considers opportunities to support repair cafes, upcycling of clothes and furniture and provision of incentives for zero waste shops."

Muir welcomes Cairn Wood progress

I welcome progress concerning planned work at Cairn Wood after leading campaign to save the Forest in 2016 which garnered thousands of signatures and secured a u-turn in plans to sell to the highest bidder.

After the concerted efforts of many thousands of individuals I am glad to learn that Cairn Wood is both secure in public hands and work progressing on an extended car park, toilets and improving the walking trails. The walking trails will be made more suitable for family / casual cycling rather than mountain biking in light of consultation responses received by Council. A trail designer has been commissioned to develop detailed plans. Work on the toilets and extending the car park is due to be completed by end of March 2020 and by end of October 2020 concerning the trails.

I will monitor progress over the months ahead to ensure planned works occur and seek to keep people updated as we build a sustainable future for the popular forest. Many thanks to the many people in 2016 whose collective efforts helped ensure secure future for the Forest together with those engaging, responding to the consultations and working to improve Cairn Wood for future generations to enjoy.

Details concerning a few Planning Applications in relation to Cairn Wood from Council Officer:

LA06/2019/1032/F - Cairn Wood Car Park – Works anticipated to commence 20th January and completing 31st March 2020.

Cairn Wood Toilet Block – preparation of the planning application package is currently in progress and submission of the planning application is expected in December. Works anticipated to commence 1st March and complete on the 27th March 2020.

LA06/2019/0848/PAN – Forest trail enhancement scheme at Cairn Wood – currently at Planning Application Notice stage and submission of the major planning application is anticipated in December 2019. Works anticipated to commence 1st May and complete at the end of October 2020.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Muir welcomes progress concerning Redburn Square Subway, Holywood

I have welcomed progress achieved in upgrading the Redburn Square Subway in Holywood which runs under the busy A2 Bangor to Belfast Road.

Following ratification of the cross party motion in September calling for action to address the dilapidated state of the Redburn Square Subway I welcome the response received from Department for Infrastructure and agreement by Council Committee to call for a site meeting to consider further actions required to upgrade the subway.

The response from Department for Infrastructure outlines lighting upgrades undertaken, replacement of damaged nosings on steps, removal of graffiti and offers a site meeting which Corporate Committee on 12 November 2019 agreed to request at the recommendation of myself

The Redburn Square Subway is a main gateway into the Town but unfortunately does not give a great impression. So many letters and emails have been exchanged with Transport NI by many elected representatives requesting action but unfortunately progress has been slow.

Whilst the dilapidated state is of concern, the possible impact is of even higher concern with some people avoiding use of the subway and trying to cross the busy A2 instead. With 40,000 vehicles a day travelling along this road the sight of people dodging vehicles to cross the road makes me feel sick with dread.

I am therefore encouraged by the small but important upgrades actioned to date and look forward to speaking with Department for Infrastructure representatives to outline the need for further work, cleaning up the subway, introducing enhanced lighting and signage to encourage people to use the safe way to cross the A2.

A Notice of Motion debated at Corporate Committee in September and subsequently ratified by Council stated “That this Council agrees to write to Transport NI outlining our concerns in relation to the dilapidated state of Redburn Square A2 Subway, road safety concerns arising as a result and, in light of such, the need for full upgrade with a site meeting to be requested involving Transport NI representatives plus Councillors for the DEA.”.


Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Muir welcomes Cairn Wood consultation

Alderman Muir at Cairn Wood
I have welcomed consultation commenced by Ards and North Down Borough Council which could see over a quarter of a million pounds invested into Cairn Wood Forest.

The proposed works would involve seating, wayfinding, information panels, improved entrance, extension to the current car park plus development of a wildflower meadow alongside improvements and expansion of walking trails and possible creation of a separate family cycle and mountain bike trails

After leading the campaign to Save Cairn Wood which saw thousands of people taking action and successful in their efforts to keep the Forest in public hands I was delighted to learn earlier this year that public ownership transferred from NI Water to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) on 1 April 2019.

News now received that DAERA could fund up to 75% of £275,000 investment into the Forest by end of March 2020 under their Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Scheme to cover Phase One of works is welcome news for such a much loved asset which risked being sold off to the highest bidder only a few years ago.

With sign off due soon of the Memorandum of Understanding and Licence with Council to develop and operate the paths and Forest generally and consultation now commenced on proposed works a much brighter future seems to be the horizon for Cairn Wood.

I would encourage everyone with an interest in the future of the forest to engage with the consultation either online or by attending the public meeting scheduled for next week to ensure all views at captured and a clear plan developed which attracts the widest possible support as together we build a brighter, greener and sustainable future for the Forest.

More details on the consultation including the Public Consultation Event on Tuesday 20 August 2pm to 7pm at Ards Leisure Centre can be found at https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/about-the-council/consultations/outdoor-recreation-scheme-proposed-for-cairn-wood

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Muir welcomes Trevor Street resurfacing plans in Holywood

Current state of Trevor Street
I have welcomed plans to resurface both the road and pavement at Trevor Street in Holywood after concerted lobbying for action.

With the road in an awful state of disrepair containing old coal tar and pavements a complete mess with weeds and grass growing amongst the slabs I am delighted that Transport NI now plan to resurface the road and lay a new pavement after months of sustained lobbying. 

Whilst this will result in a long closure over the month of August the end result should be a much more attractive street which is rightly a popular place to live. The residents deserve good quality road and pavements and hopefully will not face undue disruption as this is finally delivered by Transport NI to whom I wish to express my thanks for taking forward this project in the face of tight budgets and many competing pressures

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Alliance encourages public to report odours to help plug the pong

Chris Lyttle MLA and Alderman
Andrew Muir at Tillysburn Stream
East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle and myself are encouraging local people to report any malodours after meeting with Senior NI Environment Agency (NIEA) and NI Water personnel to discuss concerns relating to malodours and pollution at the Tillysburn Stream which runs from Tillysburn roundabout, behind IKEA towards B and Q and adjoins the Kinnegar lagoons which have been remediated following £4.5million investment by NI Water after years of lobbying by myself.

With local Holywood residents still experiencing malodours I was keen to meet with officials alongside Chris Lyttle MLA for East Belfast to discuss possible causes especially after previous reports that East Belfast's ageing sewage network may be contributing to the problem.

I would like to thank NIEA and NI Water representatives for taking the time to meet on-site and discuss the issue. Whilst  investment in upgrade of sewage system can only but improve the situation it was felt that this may not be the key cause. Members of the public are therefore to be encouraged to promptly report any malodours to the Pollution Hotline via telephoning 0800 807060 or email emergency-pollution@daera-ni.gov.uk to enable further investigation into possible causes. It was also felt that the natural effect of aerobic decomposition of sediment and tidal movements could be a cause but until a definitive pattern is found concerning when and where odours are experienced officials cannot pin point the exact cause.

Chris Lyttle Alliance MLA for East Belfast remarked "This was a useful and informative meeting proving yet again the need for investment and also for any malodours to be reported to enable thorough investigation. As a Member of the NI Assembly I will continue to lobby for NI Water to receive sufficient funding to enable delivery of fit for purpose water and sewage infrastructure which minimises pollution incidents".