Muir calls for an end to the King John's Highway blockade

Path blocked on 4 August 2010

I was contacted by local residents a few weeks ago about the King John's Highway Right of Way near Creighton's Green Road, Holywood. Residents reported it was blocked but I was glad to see the path re-opened on Tuesday 10 August 2010. I am now frustrated that the path has again been blocked.

The path is a historic public Right of Way established after King John made his way from Carrickfergus to Dublin via Holywood and Dundonald in 1210. North Down Borough Council's Holywood Walking Guide details that King John "is said to have “spent the night” of Thursday July 29 in the Government Bailey situated on the Motte before heading on to Dundonald by way of Victoria Road and Croft Road (formally King John’s Highway) to stay at Dundonald Motte (where he lost 2 pence playing cards!).

I am informed that the path was previously blocked a few years ago but re-opened following action by the Authorities. I was therefore shocked to hear that the path was again blocked a few weeks ago, this time by massive padlocked gates erected at what I assume must have been great expense. I immediately contacted North Down Borough Council's Countryside Officer who has been very helpful. Swift action was taken and a few days later the gates were opened by North Down Borough Council who were able to use powers bestowed to them under the Access to the Countryside Act 1983.

Path blocked on 22 August 2010
Following action taken by North Down Borough Council on 10 August 2010 the path has been blocked with large mounds of soil. I am very frustrated that it seems that every effort possible is being made to stop people using this Right of Way. I am informed that North Down Borough Council are again taking action to re-open the path and I fully support their efforts to protect this Right of Way and ensure people are granted free passage.

Public paths and Rights of Way such as King John's Highway in Holywood are extremely important. They provide great leisure opportunities and are also part of our heritage. I hope sense prevails and this matter is quickly resolved once and for all. We should be advertising, promoting and improving our Rights of Way rather than blocking them.

Time for DCAL to blow the whistle on IFA

The Minister for Sport Nelson McCausland MLA today spoke about the latest problems being experienced by the Irish Football Association remarking "If it wasn't so ridiculous, it would at times be funny, but it is not." I don't often agree with Nelson but on this occasion I fully agree with him. I do not however agree with his decision to withhold funding to GAA and Rugby until IFA problems are resolved. As a Northern Ireland supporter I stand on the sidelines as spectator and don't find the problems a laughing matter.

For the last few years the IFA have been beset by problems, often overseen by strong personalities who seem to have become detached from reality and the need to adhere to good governance protocols.

The IFA are meant to be supporting Soccer, encouraging people to participate in the sport and developing world class players rather than squandering money and bickering endlessly.

My previous experience in relation to businesses which encounter similar problems is that the best medicine that can be administered is allowing the patient to die and then creating a new body based upon sound principles and good governance.

Rather than pandering to the current personalities involved and trying to reform the organisation the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure should blow the whistle, end the game and facilitate start up of a new organisation.

Muir speaks about 'seats for sale' cap at Belfast City Airport

North Down Borough Council tonight (Tuesday 24 August 2010) discussed correspondence from the Planning Service seeking the views of North Down Borough Council on the proposal to remove the 'seats for sale' restriction at George Best Belfast City Airport.

I proposed that Council recommends that the ‘seats for sale’ limit remains for time being and removal of the ‘seats for sale’ cap is considered along with or after the Public Inquiry concerning the proposed runway extension. Cllr Stephen Farry seconded my motion

Before I outlined why I was proposing my motion I detailed that I don’t consider myself to be a ‘high flyer’ and am not opposed to flying. I stated that airplanes have brought people from across the world closer to together, providing great cultural experiences and helping businesses grow.

I detailed that I am aware of the issues that arise in relation to City Airports with same issues in relation to George Best Belfast City Airport existing in relation to other similar airports e.g. London City Airport.

Proposing the motion I detailed that constituents had contacted me and, after considering matters and attending the briefing from Belfast City Airport last Friday I had formed the opinion that removal of limit would be premature with a Public Inquiry due to take place in the near future in relation to the proposed Runway Extension.

In closing I stated that instead of removing the ‘seats for sale’ limit the Minister should be focused on the Environmental Impact of Aviation, creating a level playing field with airlines currently paid significant subsidies.

For the reasons outlined I stated that I don’t believe that the sky should be the limit and instead ‘seats for sale’ should remain the limit until or after the Public Inquiry.

Cllr Peter Weir then proposed that the correspondence from the Planning Service be noted and, after a number of other Councillors spoke the matter was put to a vote. My motion wasn’t carried. Cllr Weir’s motion was then considered and was carried.

Redburn Loughview Community Forum Multi Sports Taster Day

I have been informed about Multi Sports Taster Day organised by Redburn Loughview Community Forum. Details below;

Date: Friday 27th August 2010
Time: 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Venue: The Green, Holywood

In partnership with North Down Borough Council Sports Development Unit and Sport Northern Irelands Active Communities Programme.

New Social Housing for Holywood

I have recently received correspondence from Trinity Housing about new Social Housing for Holywood. More information about this positive development detailed below;

Trinity Housing is in the process of completing an exciting housing scheme consisting of 17 no 2 bedroom Category I Sheltered Apartments, (1 of which is wheelchair accessible), 1 no 3 bedroom general needs house and 1 no 3 bedroom Category 1 wheelchair bungalow, at a cost of over £1,369,000.

The scheme went on site in May 2010 and we anticipate that it will be completed by June 2011.

The homes have achieved Code for Sustainable Homes level 3, Secured by Design and Lifetime Homes Standard which means that tenants should be able to live there for the rest of their lives in total comfort should they desire!

The scheme is very conveniently located to the centre of Holywood, with shops and amenities
close by.

There is high demand for housing in this area, and there has already been interest in the scheme.

Cathy Collins is the Development Officer responsible for overseeing the construction of this scheme. Allocations will be carried out in line with the Common Selection Scheme close to the date of completion.

Trinity Housing is a registered housing association with the Department for Social Development (DSD) R53 and a member of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations. It was formed in 2007 following an amalgamation of Choice Housing Association and Corinthian Housing Association. Its area of operation is Northern Ireland and its key area of activities are the provision of social housing and support services for the following categories:-
  • elderly accommodation including non-sheltered grouped dwellings, sheltered housing and housing for people with dementia;
  • supported housing for a range of needs including mental illness and learning disability; 
  • and general family housing
Trinity Housing also works with other agencies to provide housing to adults requiring a higher level of support.  Support and care is provided by Health Trusts and or voluntary agencies to enable people to live independently within the community.  

Trinity, as a registered social landlord, works in partnership with other statutory agencies and voluntary organisations including Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), all recently formed Health & Social Care Trusts and for the provision of specialist care and support, Praxis Care (NI’s largest and leading voluntary charitable care organisation).

For more information please contact Trinity Housing on 028 9069 0250 or email info@trinityha.org

Housing Executive Surgery – Loughview Estate, Holywood

Redburn & Loughview Community Forum have now organised a new Housing Executive Surgery at Learning Resource Centre, 95b Abbey Ring, Holywood Tel 028 9042 7994.

It will take place on Tuesday 28 September 2010, 11am to noon with local Neighbourhood Warden Richard Beggs (07909 915763).

Muir condemns sewage pollution incident

When I was running along the North Down Coastal Path on Monday evening at about 7pm large pools of sewage were evident in the sea near Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn beaches. When I passed through Kerr’s Wood between Carnalea Golf Club and Rathmore Road a strong smell of sewage was also evident from the local stream.

As soon as I got home I contacted NI Water and alerted them to the pollution incident.  Engineers were quickly dispatched and attempted to resolve the problem, working late into the night. I have since spoken to a Senior official at NI Water and it appears that the sewage systems were overwhelmed as a result of the heavy rainfall experienced on Monday night. Raw sewage was therefore released directly into the stream and Belfast Lough.

The entire incident reminded me of the bad old days when North Down was plagued with similar problems on an ongoing basis before the new sewage treatment plant at Donaghadee opened. Whilst I accept that NI Water are currently undertaking a survey to determine work required to ensure raw sewage doesn’t overflow into streams during periods of heavy rainfall it is unacceptable that North Down should continue to experience such pollution incidents in 2010. People living in North Down should be able to enjoy a clean, green environment all year round, including when it rains heavily.

I am informed by NI Water that teams have been dispatched to clean up the mess as a result of Monday night’s incident. If anyone is aware of areas that need cleaned up please contact NI Water (08457 440088) or myself (07813 945411). 

I have written to NI Water requesting a full written update concerning Monday night’s events, asking what immediate action will be taken to alleviate the problem as the Summer ends and rainfall increases. More details concerning the matter will be published on my blog at www.andrewmuir.net in due course.

Muir reports progress in his campaign against Kinnegar Sewage Smell

I can report significant progress in my campaign against the sewage smell which has been emanating from the area surrounding Kinnegar Waste Water Treatment Works, Holywood.

I have been campaigning for an end to the pong since early 2010 when I used Environmental legislation to reveal that over 70 odour emission incidents took place at Kinnegar Sewage Plant during 2009.

I recently met again with Senior NI Water officials to obtain an update on their efforts to deal with the smell which has been particularly bad over the last few months. Whilst people living, working or travelling near the Sewage Plant have had to endure the pong for far too long I was glad to hear that, as a result of my successful campaign, NI Water are spending approximately £100,000 surveying the entire sewage network across Holywood.

NI Water have been using CCTV and visual inspections to survey sewage pipes across Holywood in an effort to find the source of the problem. Staff have been working from 6am on some days hunting across Holywood for problems. The survey results will soon be fed into a computer model which will aid the completion of a report outlining causes and possible solutions. I am particularly grateful to NI Water for their efforts when public sector finances are tight.

I am informed that this report should be ready in October 2010 when I will next meet NI Water to discuss the work to be undertaken to ensure we don’t have another smelly summer in 2011.

Whilst NI Water are carrying out their investigations I am keen to establish whether pollution has occurred in nearby area as a result of the ongoing problems. I have therefore been in contact with the NI Environment Agency to establish if any they are aware of any pollution taking place in the vicinity of Kinnegar Waste Water Treatment and await their reply.

During my meeting I also received a valuable update concerning the Drainage Area Survey being undertaken in Bangor to combat the risk of flooding and pollution when heavy rainfall is experienced. I look forward to hearing about the future work planned across Bangor once the survey is completed which will ensure North Down remains a great place to live, work or visit.

15 August 2010

Leave No Trace at Crawfordsburn Country Park

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have announced details of their ‘Leave No Trace’ event at Crawfordsburn Country Park on Sunday 15 August from 1pm. It looks like a fun and interesting event which I may attend. Details below from NIEA;

The “Leave No Trace” event aims to help you find out how to make the most of your countryside whilst ensuring its preservation.

The event will provide fun filled activities and information for children and adults of all ages and will encourage everyone to enjoy the countryside responsibly.

Dog owners are invited to come along and join in the fun! TV dog guru Keith Matthews will be there to provide obedience classes for dogs, as well as a dog competition, dog entertainment and much more!

9 August 2010

Muir calls for more One Night Stands in North Down

A number of people have recently contacted me complaining about the lack of facilities for motor homes in North Down. The people, from Downpatrick and Millisle, have informed me that One Night Stand facilities are available in many towns across Northern Ireland. The One Night Stand facilities, also known as Overnight Stopover Points, provide Motor Home users the opportunity to park their van overnight and obtain water, electric and sewage facilities.

Carrickfergus Borough Council were the first Local Authority to provide One Night Stands in Carrickfergus and Whitehead after lobbying by Local members of the Motor Caravanners Club. Carrick Council’s facilities are known as Motor Home Services Units and require users to obtain tokens which then entitle them to use of the various facilities and the right to stay overnight.

Tough economic times combined with the problem of volcanic ash has led to a rise in what is known as "glamping" with people embarking on  "staycations” by holidaying in motor homes, including, most notably, David and Victoria Beckham. When people are touring Northern Ireland in their motor home I want to ensure we have the necessary facilities in North Down so that they can easily visit Bangor, Holywood and other areas, stay overnight and spend their cash in local shops and restaurants etc.

I therefore intend to investigate whether Motor Home Services Units can be set-up in North Down similar to those provided by Carrickfergus Borough Council. The units don’t necessarily have to be delivered by a statutory body such as North Down Borough Council and could, perhaps, be established by a private operator or a local community organisation.

Until North Down has sufficient One Night Stands many people Touring Northern Ireland will unfortunately feel “I wish I was in Carrickfergus” rather than in Northern Ireland’s Gold Coast.

7 August 2010