Sunday, 11 February 2018

Council backs proposals to grasp potential of Kinnegar Army Base

Significant Kinnegar Logistics Base site
Courtesty of Google Maps
I have called for plans to be put in place to realise the full potential of Kinnegar Logistics Base following its planned closure in 2022.

I made the proposal at Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Regeneration and Development Committee, where my plans for creating a mixed use Masterplan for the site received unanimous backing. The decision is subject to formal ratification by full Council. The Ministry of Defence announced their plans to dispose of 54 acre Kinnegar Logistics in 2022 in late 2016 with all Military Units at the site to be re-provided for.

Previously a busy base employing up to 1,000 civilian staff at the height of the troubles the situation has clearly evolved now that we live in relative peace. The service previously given by many at the base is to be commended with the commitment given by the previous Defence Secretary that no job losses will occur also welcomed, with all re-deployed to Palace Barracks.

As we have seen at other sites across Northern Ireland. far too often assets close down, people move on and all that is left is a site turning into nothing more than an eyesore whilst public bodies dither and debate it’s future.  Kinnegar Logistics Base has been part of the Holywood landscape for years and must be utilised to create jobs, deliver homes and act keep Holywood on the map as somewhere to live and do business.

Rather than waiting for the inevitable to happen we must take action now as this site has the potential to become a valuable asset for generations to come. In order for this to happen planning must commence now, in close consultation with local residents, businesses and other key stakeholders.

A fantastic opportunity for job creation if done right, we can’t let this site become like other vacated bases, with development slow and potential development not brought to fruition. Development of plans for this site are also very apt with work now underway to construction the £1billion Belfast City Region Growth Deal.

I’m delighted other Councillors backed my proposal and recommendation Council seeks funding for future development as part of the Belfast City Region Growth Deal. This will now allow us to move forward, hear a wide range of views and hopefully develop costed options for regeneration, including transport, public realm and other supporting infrastructure.  Together we can turn around a sad story of closure to one of success benefiting local people and the economy alike.

Motion tabled by myself and passed at Regeneration and Development Committee on Thursday 8 February 2018 “This Council notes the substantial opportunities available in light of the planned closure of Kinnegar Logistics Base and agrees that serious consideration should be given to seeking funding for future development as part of the Growth Deal for Belfast City Region, due by September 2018. Furthermore, Council requests officers promptly bring back a report highlighting the process for developing a mixed use Masterplan for the site, which will involve close engagement with local residents, businesses and other key stakeholders, and will produce costed options for regeneration, including transport, public realm and other supporting infrastructure.”

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

New Post Box for Cultra signed, sealed and delivered

Cllr Muir at new Post Box at
Seafront Road, Cultra
I am delighted to have signed, sealed and delivered a Post Box for Cultra after leading a long and determined campaign to ensure local residents once again got a First Class service from Royal Mail following decommissioning of the previous Victorian Box which had its aperture closed just before Easter last year.

I am delighted to have been able to deliver this replacement Post Box despite the delays when I started to worry that the replacement Post Box was ‘lost in the post’. As a result of sustained lobbying and follow up on almost a weekly basis the replacement Post Box finally received the stamp of approval in late 2017 with installation then occurring early in the New Year at Seafront Road, Cultra opposite Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club.

Whilst frustrated at the ridiculous delays encountered and fact that the people of Cultra were left to endure no Post Box and associated Second Class service for such a long period of time I am proud to have been instrumental in ensuring this box was signed, sealed and delivered. The scenic location chosen for the replacement Post Box arguably means this has been a ‘Special Delivery’ with the old Victorian Post Box also remaining but painted black in line with protocol agreed with Heritage England. Whilst collections have already commenced from the new Post Box I have asked for details of the precise collection times to be displayed without delay.

Post Box at Seafront Road, Cultra
Although delighted to have achieved this delivery I have still not given up on installation of a replacement Post Box at Station Road, Craigavad which was unfairly removed and returned to sender in 2016. I am currently working with local residents to explore different avenues to get Royal Mail to change their mind and deliver a new Post Box so that the people of Craigavad also receive the First Class service they deserve.

Old Victorian Post Box

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Happy New Year for Cairn Wood

Following extensive consultation with users and other stakeholders Council has agreed in principle and subject to funding plus land transfer to Forest Service the Council will, via a Memorandum of Understanding, ensure that Cairn Wood continues to be available for the public to enjoy with plans being pursued to carry out further development of the facility working with the ‘Friends of Cairn Wood’ group and others to enhance the visitors experience.

Works undertaken will be done in close consultation with users and stakeholders respecting the sensitive nature of the site and are subject to funding plus receipt of relevant approvals. Improvements being considered include expansion of the Car Park on its existing site, improvement of signage, development of the path to Clandeboye Way plus the Cairngaver lookout, development of a wildlife meadow and a possible mountain bike trail and pump track in the separate cleared area.

Further details and consultation to follow when funding, approvals and handover plans enable matters to be progressed. I would like to commend everyone involved in the campaign to Save Cairn Wood for their determination and commitment to save this wonderful natural asset. Achievements to date are a positive testament to everyone involved who have proved that people power delivers.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Muir secures Council commitment to cleaner streets and get chewing gum problem unstuck!

Ards and North Down Council is to get tougher when it comes to removing chewing gum from pavements in popular areas across the borough.

At the latest Environment Committee meeting, steps to tackle the growing problem were outlined, after I previously requested various options be explored to get the problem 'unstuck'.

Chewing gum stuck to our streets is a growing problem and is becoming more and more noticeable at popular destinations across Ards and North Down following recent Public Realm works and new pavements laid. I'm delighted officers have taken my request seriously and provided substantial information on how we can take action against this horrible sight which is destroying the new granite pavements.

The Council's Environment Committee has agreed to consider including necessary financial resources for a chewing gum removal programme focused on the Public Realm works as part of the Rates setting process for 2018/19 and also include the issue as part of a new Litter Control Strategy, targeting hot spots and raising awareness.

We all have our part to play and while it is good to see the Council taking this issue seriously, prevention is always a better way. So I would appeal to all gum chewers to think before you discard used gum on the streets, but instead to always look for bins provided.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Muir secures Council support to get unstuck from gum

Hako Street Cleaning Machine purchased to
sweep and wash pavements but cannot
remove the chewing gum
I have secured the unanimous support of Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Environment Committee for his request that officers explore options and costs associated with a scheduled programme of gum removal from our new Public Realm pavements.

Whilst I welcome the investment of £70,000 in the new Hako street cleaning machine to sweep and wash our new Public Realm Pavements we urgently need a proper schedule of cleaning to remove the chewing gum that has appeared on the new pavements. We cannot be left to rely upon ad-hoc manual removal which is both time consuming, irregular and unreliable in terms of results.

After making such a significant investment in new Public Realm pavements it’s vital the Council gets unstuck from the current situation and finds ways to end the scourge of gum. I am therefore delighted that Councillors backed my motion and await the officers report on ways to address the matter.

Motion passed by Environment Committee on 6 September 2017: “That this Council requests that officers bring back a report on the options and associated costs associated with a scheduled programme of gum removal from new Public Realm pavements in relevant Towns across our Borough”. This is subject to ratification by Full Council on 27 September 2017.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Cultra Station renovations the rail thing, says Muir

Cultra Railway Station is on the express track back to life after significant renovations were unveiled for the first time last weekIt is 'fantastic' to see the much-loved location restored to its former glory. 

Photos of the newly restored Cultra Station House and associated properties look pretty amazing, bringing a once derelict building back to its former glory alongside a number of new high quality finish buildings on the adjoining site. It’s fantastic to see the  Station House ready for people to call home. I wish the eventual new home owners every success as they set out on what seems certain to be a express non-stop journey of railway nostalgia in modern surroundings

Since 2011, my colleague, former Councillor and now Chair of Holywood Conservation Group Larry Thompson, and I have worked hard to ensure rapidly deteriorating Cultra Station House didn't hit the buffers and was instead on the fast track to a full revival after being seized by NAMA. 

Cllr Andrew Muir and Mr Larry Thompson RIBA

Far too often we see historic buildings fall into a state of disrepair, but rather than let that happen to Cultra Station House, Alliance has consistently fought to see the arrival of a functioning site. That's now fully ready and promoting a positive sense of community spirit after many local people and organisations boarded the campaign, from Holywood Conservation Group to Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, a previous Environment Minister and even a Irish TD.

This is a success story. Cultra Station House has overcome health and safety concerns, the economic crash of 2011 and many other disappointments, to offer local people a truly wonderful place to live. I'm very proud to have been involved in this project from the start and would encourage everyone to look at what has been achieved.