Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Fast track sale of Reservoirs

I will soon be holding a Public Meeting to Save our Reservoirs after discovering that NI Water are considering fast tracking sale of Reservoirs in the North Down area.

It is hoped that local people will form a Campaign Committee to fight NI Water's plans to sell the Reservoirs. Representatives from a variety of key organisations such as Woodland Trust, RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will be there to provide information.

I have been campaigning to Save our Reservoirs since I discovered in August that NI Water plan to sell many Reservoirs across Northern Ireland. Numerous impounding reservoirs across Northern Ireland are now under threat as a result of Project Alpha. 

When I initially became aware that NI Water planned to sell a number of Reservoirs in the North Down area I was assured that there was no need to worry. I was told they weren't under immediate threat and, in the case of Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs, they were scheduled for disposal in 2013/14.

I wasn't however prepared to sit back whilst the future of these assets remained uncertain. I used my initiative and submitted a request to NI Water under Environmental Information Regulations seeking a copy of all correspondence and documentation relating to the Reservoirs under threat in North Down.

I am now shocked to learn that Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs are under clear and present danger. The Reservoirs are located in the Craigantlet Hills between Bangor and Holywood and now face the prospect of being flogged to the highest bidder.

NI Water emails obtained by Cllr Muir detail the following in relation to Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs;

"I have passed a document to EMT requesting that a number of decommissioned sites be brought forward in the Disposal Plan and Ballysallagh IR's is included" 15 June 2010

"The bottom line from an operational perspective is that we would like these reservoirs sold asap as we are still obliged to carry out regular fenceline and reservoir inspections and the associated Health and Safety maintenance picked up as a result" 10 September 2009

"I would welcome a fast track disposal strategy" 20 April 2010

"End result if it all works out - …… You get rid of at least one of the reservoirs. NI Water takes in some money". 20 April 2010

Whilst I condemn these plans I am quickly developing a plan of action to Save our Reservoirs. Rather than shallow words of condemnation I am fighting these plans in conjunction with other people, politicians and key interest groups.

Ballysallagh Reservoirs aren't unfortunately the only Reservoirs under immediate threat. Portavoe Reservoir between Groomsport and Donaghadee is also listed for sale in 2011/12.

I therefore proposed a Motion at North Down Borough Council along with another Councillor on Tuesday evening to take action in relation to plans to sell this reservoir. The motion recommends that a joint working group is set-up by Ards and North Down Borough Council's in order to fight NI Water's plans to sell Portavoe Reservoir. 

Other Reservoirs are also under threat such as Lough Cowey near Portaferry and Stoneyford Reservoir near Lisburn. Two Reservoirs in Conlig are also scheduled for sale in 2013/14 with the sale of the Church Road and Creighton’s Green Reservoirs scheduled for 2015/16.

I have now organised a Public Meeting scheduled for Wednesday 8 December 2010, 7.30pm at Bangor Sportsplex, Old Belfast Road, Bangor.

The meeting is open to everyone, including other politicians, to discuss how to push forward the campaign and hopefully result in a Campaign Committee. This is a Northern Ireland wide problem which requires a united approach. Woodland Trust, RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will be in attendance at the meeting with information on the wildlife value of the sites.

Some people have recently suggested that the Reservoirs should be drained and used for farming, housing, or landfill. I am fundamentally opposed to these suggestions. The Reservoirs provide a home to a massive array of wildlife. They also provide the potential for many leisure opportunities in addition to their current use by Anglers, providing, of course, the new leisure activities can be safely accommodated.

It's important government retains ownership of the Reservoirs to ensure security of supply and in order to avoid any flood risks.

I dread to think what could happen if the Reservoirs are snapped up by a private company and regular maintenance isn't undertaken. Only recently large parts of Hungary were engulfed by toxic sludge when a Reservoir dam burst near Ajka with ten people killed, hundreds of residents evacuated and many businesses destroyed.

I look forward to seeing many people at the meeting on 8 December 2010 to Save our Reservoirs.

To join my email list and keep updated about Save our Reservoirs please email mail@andrewmuir.net

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