Thursday, 26 November 2015

Future of popular Cairn Wood in doubt as on sale to private owners by NI Water

I am shocked to learn that Northern Ireland Water plan to sell a significant portion of the Cairn Wood Forest to the highest bidder with future public access now in doubt.

With woodland cover in Northern Ireland the lowest of any European country (with the exception of Iceland) at 6% we need to be increasing our woodland cover to meet 12% target in 2050 not selling forests to private purchasers. Retaining our forests, and public access arrangements is of paramount importance due to the social, economic and environmental benefits that arise with Cairn Wood an habitat haven enjoyed by many people on a regular basis.

From a previous Freedom of Information request, I was thankfully able to ascertain that the Forests adjoining Ballysallagh Upper Reservoir are operated under a 150 year lease with the Forest Service. Signed in 1964 by Bangor Borough Council, the actions of Northern Ireland Water run contrary to the commitments given by the previous owner (Bangor Borough Council) and are a concerning development. I am appalled that NI Water have decided to embark upon this course of action which is a gross breach of trust after being transferred ownership in the 1970s. NI Water could, however, have overlooked this commitment and if, so, need to apologise and withdraw the land for sale forthwith.

I have written to both the Agriculture and Regional Development Ministers requesting decision to sell this woodland is reversed and hope an urgent reply will be received.

If not, I will again ask the Council to consider exploring opportunities to save the land from falling into private ownership. My original proposal to Ards and North Down Borough Council that a scoping exercise be undertaken via means of an Economic Appraisal, when offered these Reservoirs for sale would have helped identify this issue and explore way to save valuable woodland but sadly it was rejected with expression of interest given for merely two of the reservoirs offered.

Monday, 9 November 2015

More vital changes on way for coastal path

I welcome plans to further develop the North Down Coastal Path. Ards and North Down Borough Council recently agreed to search for funding opportunities to overhaul the latest section of the coastal path – with a new path on the seaward side of the seawall a possibility bypassing the private road and securing the deteriorating seawall.

The coastal path is a vital asset to our beautiful borough and one that we must ensure we make the most of.

In recent years I have successfully lobbied to ensure vital changes were made to the coastal path, allowing for greater access and to benefit all users such as the new section bypassing old Seahill steps.

While North Down is already well-known as a beautiful scenic spot for tourists, there is always more we can do as a borough to attract a greater number of visitors each year. Without action this vital Coastal Path link risks being irreparably damaged by the ravages of the sea.

Alliance is committed to making North Down a better, healthier place to live, work or visit and I would urge all Councillors to get behind these plans.  Hopefully through co-operation we can see the coastal path developed even further, encouraging many more to enjoy it.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Bangor Park could get Green Flag status

Bangor’s Castle Park could soon see it receive Green Flag status.  The national award for public and community parks and greenspaces, the Green Flag award scheme recognises and rewards the best green spaces across the country.

I previously asked that Green Flag status be explored for Ward Park, but with Unionists voting against the idea, the initiative was abandoned.

I’m delighted that an issue I have worked hard to bring to the attention of others has finally been recognised by the new Ards and North Down Council.

Castle Park deserves this award, with many working together to ensure the park remains an area of natural beauty.

We must do everything we can to protect our environment and I hope that when this comes before the Council again, no-one will stand in the way letting this process proceed.

I hope we will see Castle Park join Kiltonga Nature Reserve in gaining Green Flag status.  Now is the time to invest in our environment, creating a green economy that will benefit the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Refurbishment on the horizon for Glenlyon Park, Holywood

Holywood’s Glenlyon Park is set for major refurbishment works this winter. 
Having raised concerns a number of times in recent years, I am delighted the park’s current state of disrepair is finally going to be addressed.  The move will also address on-going anti-social behaviour in the area.
Glenlyon Park is a vital resource and a much enjoyed public space in the Holywood area.
However over the past few years this once Scenic Park has become a shadow of its former self, with wildlife dwindling and paths overgrown with untamed shrubbery, along with an increase in anti-social behaviour.
The planned works will include the removal of unnative species and plants, to be replaced by native, locally sourced foliage and I want to thank the local conservation volunteers who have pledged to help with the project.  Overall we will see greater diversity in the park, with the addition of many new species set to make the area a much more interesting park to visit.
I am passionate about creating a clean and green borough, with a range of open spaces available for shared activities and enjoyment.  I’m delighted the Council has listened to my concerns and am hopeful that Glenlyon Park will be returned to its former glory.

Celebrating Rory McIlroy's achievements

Golf Champion Rory McIIroy could see his major achievements permanently celebrated in Holywood, if plans get the go-ahead.

I recently secured support from the relevant Ards and North Down Borough Council Committee calling for officers to investigate the possibility of a permanent recognition of the golfing star in liaison with his Management Company.

Rory McIIroy is a fantastic role-model for the next generation across Northern Ireland – proving that if you dream big and work hard you can achieve great success.

Rory has been at the top of his game for a number of years now, but while he is travelling the world Holywood will always be his home.  I believe it is a fitting tribute for his home town to celebrate his achievements in whatever manner considered appropiate.

This motion calls on Council officers to look at the different options available and engage with his Management Company to establish what is desired.

At a time when Northern Ireland continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, we must recognise the positive headlines Rory McIIroy makes every time he picks up his clubs.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Official Opening of SERC SPACE welcomed

Minister for Employment and Learning
Dr Stephen Farry MLA and I at
Official Opening of SPACE in Bangor
I joined Alliance Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry MLA in Bangor on Tuesday, as a new £12 million arts facility at the town's South Eastern Regional College (SERC).

A state of the art facility, SPACE - Serc Performing Arts, Computing and Engineering - will not only equip students with specialised skills, but is also set to open Bangor up to Northern Ireland's growing film industry.
I was delighted to join Minister Farry in Bangor as he opened this campus. A fantastic addition to the growing Further Education (FE) estate, SPACE will be an asset to the college and local community alike for years to come.
As an elected representative for North Down, I am aware of the historic need for improved theatrical and performing arts facilities in the area. With this new theatre and auditorium available to both students and the wider community for use, this project will only help address this need - further developing a growing, vibrant arts scene across the constituency.
But it is not only through the arts sector that SPACE will have an impact locally. With the facilities to develop the next generation of skilled engineers and build on new technological advancements, Bangor's local economy will play a direct role in building a strong economic future for Northern Ireland.
I would encourage local residents to come along and check out what's available at SPACE. As a local resident and elected representative I'm looking forward to working with both the college and community and I'm confident that together the full potential of this new facility will be utilised.
Back in September 2013 I joined Minister Farry and SERC Principal Ken Webb to launch plans for SPACE. With the work completed on time, I'm delighted to again join him - this time unveiling the finished product.
Launching plans in September 2013
Locally Alliance is committed to building a creative, innovative, skills rich borough and SPACE will go a long way in helping turn these aspirations into a reality.
This initiative is also set to showcase the benefits that come from enabling people across all sectors to work together to grow our economy. I look forward to being part of this process and would encourage everyone across North Down to support SPACE how they can.