Friday, 28 August 2015

New Bangor Central Integrated Primary School buildings a step closer

Alliance representatives have welcomed sale of old Bangor Castle Leisure Centre car park to the Education Authority in order to enable future development and expansion of Bangor Central Integrated Primary School.

Sale of the car park area was considered vital to enable much needed new buildings for the popular Primary School with sale negotiations ongoing since 2011.

Commenting on the development, Councillor Stuart Anderson stated “With Bangor Central Integrated Primary School still operating within out of date buildings and being forced to use mobile classrooms to cater for strong demand, the need for new buildings and a modern teaching environment is of paramount importance. I am therefore delighted to learn that Council have concluded negotiations and sold the car park area of the old Bangor Castle Leisure Centre to the Education Authority. The pressure on primary schools across Bangor to facilitate demand is well known. I trust that the Department of Education will take this opportunity to equip the school in a manner that, at least in part, begins to address this issue.

Urging the Department for Education to now approve the new school buildings, I remarked “Sale of this area removes last barrier to progress and should provide green light for Department for Education to approve long awaited new school buildings. With the school enjoying strong enrolment and an inclusive Integrated Learning Environment I would urge the Minister for Education to evaluate how the school’s request for new buildings can be progressed without any further delay. I have already written to the Minister seeking an update and hope for a positive reply.

The Alliance Party have been strong supporters of Bangor Central Integrated Primary School and Integrated Education generally and will continue our strong support for such over months and years ahead as we seek to deliver a modern first class education system for everyone.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Columbanus 5k sprints to success

A total of eighty eight runners and walkers participated in the Mellons Hyundai Columbanus 5k Run on Friday evening around area previously inhabited by Saint Columbanus before be travelled onwards across Europe. With a range of people participating of different ages and abilities in perfect conditions and over £230 raised in voluntary donations to Friends of Columbanus, Bangor the event was felt to be real success.

I am extremely grateful to everyone who made the run possible including all the volunteers, marshals, Police Service of NI, Bangor Abbey Church who allowed us to use the Parish Halls and Mellons Hyundai for kind sponsorship of the event.

Columbanus 5k winners, from left, Race Organiser Councillor Andrew Muir, Barney Miller (North Down AC) – First Male Junior, Murphy Miller (North Down AC) – First Female, Mayor of Ards and North Down Alderman Alan Graham, Emily Fawthrop – First Female Junior, Jonathan Gibson, First Male.
I hope we have raised the profile of Columbanus and the area he once inhabited in an engaging manner by providing such a unique family friendly fun run which forms a part of the series of events taking place this year to mark 1,400 Anniversary of the death of Saint Columbanus.

The provision of Refreshments, Fresh Fruit and Buns after the run kindly provided by Friends of Columbanus, Bangor volunteers plus presence of our Mayor Alderman Alan Graham was greatly appreciated by many and helped make the run a unique memorable evening. Feedback from runners in relation to the course was positive and provides a possible future template for any future runs in the area which can now be pursued if need exists.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Renewable energy, climate change & DUP

Last week the County Down Spectator carried a front page news story about proposed Solar Farm in North Down along with opposition from DUP MLA. 

Full details about the proposal can be found at http://epicpublic.planningni.gov.uk Planning Application Reference LA06/2015/0389/F. 

In response I submitted the following letter which appeared in the County Down Spectator today:

I write in relation to recent story in County Down Spectator concerning plan for a Solar Farm in North Down and subsequent objections from a DUP MLA and others.

As many readers will be aware, the world is already starting to experience the effects of Climate Change with developing countries hit the hardest as a result of stronger cyclones, gradually increasing land and sea temperatures plus more unpredictable rains and on-going sea-level rises.

Duty to decrease carbon emissions by exploring cleaner renewable energy sources and reducing our reliance upon fossil fuels is therefore not just a legal obligation but a moral one. Time to show foresight and consideration for future generations and others across the globe is today.

I was therefore disappointed to see a DUP representative leading the campaign against the proposed Solar Farm without recognising the need for such developments nor the detailed plans submitted which propose creation of a woodland to provide a barrier between the Solar Farm and A2 Dual Carriageway plus hedgerows augmented and gapped up with indigenous species around the circumference of the Solar Farm.

Distinct lack of leadership and reactionary response from DUP to object and oppose anything remotely different and new isn’t however surprising nor unexpected when we consider the issue of renewable energy, with DUP providing a warm home to climate change deniers such as Sammy Wilson.

I will be submitting a letter of support for the application submitted and encourage others to do likewise alongside supporting organisations such as Christian Aid who are working to help poor communities to adapt to the growing threat of climate change whilst also advocating for global action towards clean, low-carbon energy sources.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Mellons Hyundai Columbanus 5k Run & Walk launched

From left, Kenneth Irvine (Chairperson, Friends of 
Columbanus, Bangor), Ben Caughers (North Down Athletic Club), 
Ange Perrott (North Down Athletic Club), Alex Irvine (Tourism 
DevelopmentOfficer, Ards and North Down Borough Council),
Andrew Muir (5k Event Organiser), Canon Ronnie Nesbitt 
and Alderman Alan Graham (Mayor of Ards and North Down). 
Two children in front row Zach Irvine and Luke Irvine.
Runners are in training for a special event on Friday 21 August at 7pm at Bangor Abbey organised by the Friends of Columbanus as part of a series of events throughout 2015 marking 1,400 Anniversary of the death of Columbanus who was based in Bangor Abbey before travelling across Europe.

The 5k run and walk will leave Bangor Abbey and tour three laps of Castle Park through scenic Bangor Castle grounds and the site of old Bangor Abbey via a formally measured and marshalled course. Entry is free of charge with voluntary donations to Friends of Columbanus, Bangor encouraged.

The 5k family friendly Run and Walk is open to all regardless of ability or age with optional fancy dress with prizes for best dressed Adult and Child dressed monk.

After recent successful Hadlow 5k Run & Walk in Donaghadee I am looking forward to being involved in delivering another community based event giving athletes, joggers, fun runners and walkers opportunity to enjoy a dander in the outdoors via a formal organised event. Anyone not interested in running or walking can volunteer by contacting me via telephoning 07813 945411 or email mail@andrewmuir.net We are extremely grateful to Mellons Hyundai for making this event possible via their kind sponsorship which allows us to provide entry free of charge for everyone.

Anyone interested can register on the day from 5pm at Bangor Abbey Parish Halls which will also be location for Refreshments and Buns after the event for runners, walkers and volunteers.

Parking for the event is available at Abbey Street, Bangor car parks, Newtownards Road car park plus the Health Centre off Newtownards Road.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Muir continues campaign to see Waterfall Walk reopened

© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse
under this Creative Commons Licence
I am continuing my campaign to see the Waterfall Walk in Crawfordsburn Country Park repaired. Abandoned by the NI Environment Agency since winter 2010, I have since been campaigning for alternative access to the waterfall to be provided with the Environment Minister now revealing plans for the creation of an alternative access path due to safety concerns.

For five years people have been unable to access one of North Down’s natural beauty spots – something I have been trying to find answers to for some time.

Despite previous assurances that this issue would be addressed, the NIEA has made absolutely no effort to rectify the problem leaving many disappointed and frustrated.

That is why I again questioned the Environment Minister to outline the specific reasons as to why any work has stalled.  While the Minister admitted there are no ownership or access issues preventing access, but did acknowledge concerns around the existing path being unstable.

Following this admission, I am pleased the Minister has instructed the NIEA to investigate the creation of an alternative path.  This would create a lasting solution for local people and tourists who want to get closer to the waterfall than the current viewing platform permits.

Five years is long enough to wait and I will be continuing to push both the Minister and the NIEA to make sure the best long-term solution is delivered.

Assembly Question response below:

AQW 46729/11-15

Question:
To ask the Minister of the Environment whether any land ownership or access issues are inhibiting the Northern Ireland Environment Agency from making the necessary repairs to enable access to the Waterfall Walk in Crawfordsburn Country Park.

Answer:
There are no ownership or access issues preventing access to make repairs. However, senior engineers have advised that the steep slope on the left side of the Crawford’s Burn, into which the closed path was cut, is inherently unstable.
With the prospect of further landslips I have asked NIEA to explore the creation of an alternative access path. Subject to the availability of capital funding, this would provide a long term solution and ensure public safety.
The outcome of a current bid for funding will determine whether the works can progress this financial year.
Meanwhile visitors to Crawfordsburn Country Park wishing to see the waterfall behind Crawfordsburn Village can still access the viewing platform from the path on the right bank of the Crawford’s Burn.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Muir welcomes saving of historic gate lodge

I welcome news an historic gate lodge is to be saved from potential destruction. Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy recently announced in response to an Alliance Assembly question that Craigowen Lodge, located on the main Belfast to Bangor road close to the Seahill Road junction, would be given to Hearth Housing Association with a view to securing its future. 

The lodge had been purchased by Roads Service ahead of a proposed road-widening scheme that never occurred. The listed building suffered an arson attack several years ago, after which it had a tin roof installed for protection. It was designed by Thomas Turner, a pupil of Sir Charles Lanyon. 

Craigowen Lodge is a building steeped in history and heritage, which deserves to be restored and protected as much as possible. Hearth Housing Association informed me in 2011 they wanted to renovate the building, so it is extremely welcome to see that work finally moving ahead. 

Hearth specialises in restoring historic buildings, so the organisation is perfect to bring back Craigowen to its former glories. Our built heritage needs to be secured - they could provide much-needed social housing and used in general so future generations can enjoy them.