Muir says NI Water must halt sale of Reservoirs

NI Water must halt their plans to sell reservoirs across Northern Ireland, including six in Craigantlet Hills between Bangor and Belfast and one in Groomsport at Portavoe. In light of recent events which have left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without water, NI Water must scrap these sale plans. 
With many homes across Northern Ireland without water due to a widespread shortage, NI Water should take immediate steps to ensure a sufficent supply of water and cancel their plans to sell many reservoirs across Northern Ireland. Residents and businesses in Holywood are being denied water, yet disgraceful plans are still afoot to sell many of the local reservoirs which I understand were recently taken out of use.
I recently learned that over £3m was invested during 2003/04 to bring the Ballysallagh Lower Reservoir to EU drinking water standards. To then potentially sell the reservoir a few years later when Northern Ireland desperately needs water to cook, wash and avail of sanitary facilities is plain stupid. NI Water should save our reservoirs rather than sell them and reduce potential water supplies even further.

Muir supports Bangor Christmas Day swimmers

Picture from BBC News of another Christmas Day swim

I support and admire members of Cathal Brugha water polo club who will take the plunge in Bangor Bay on Christmas Day.

Whilst I will be tucking into my turkey dinner on Christmas Day upwards of thirty members from Cathal Brugha Water Polo Club will swim in the chilly Bangor Bay waters in aid of The Children’s Hospice.

I admire these dedicated swimmers who will be taking the plunge in aid of charity and have already pledged money for their efforts. I hope they warm up quickly after the swim and are able to enjoy a warm and merry Christmas Day after a cold and icy swim.

Severe Weather updates

For more Severe Weather updates please visit my Facebook page http://on.fb.me/afePqF plus North Down Borough CouncilTraffic Watch NI, Translink and BBC News.

Refuse arrangements

Holywood Civic Amenity Site has reopened.

I am informed by North Down Borough Council Chief Exec that Bin Bags will be collected with Grey Bins when weather improves and collections resume.

More details about refuse arrangements at www.northdown.gov.uk

Bin collections update

As the weather has prevented grey bin collections being made in North Down to date this week - and the situation is likely to continue - it has been decided that instead of collecting blue bins next week, grey bins will be collected from
27-31 December.  This will of course depend on improved weather conditions.

The collection schedule will revert to normal from 3 January, which will be a grey bin week.  Blue bins will not now be collected until week commencing 10 January 2010.

Scrooge swindles £4,000 off pensioner

See this week's County Down Spectator for more information about a Holywood Pensioner was defrauded of £4,000 by a rogue builder.

I am disgusted that a bogus caller visited this older local resident and defrauded her of thousands pounds under the guise he was a builder

I was recently made aware of this incident and feel it's important that people across North Down are made aware. People should be wary of cold callers appearing on their doorstep and should always ask to see identification in order to verify their identity. If in doubt ring the police. Professional builders will never appear on your doorstep with horror stories and looking for cash to fix the alleged problems.

I would call on anyone else who has been visited by similar cold callers posing as builders wishing to undertake work to let the police know so we can hopefully catch the culprit.

Police advice is detailed below;

Superintendent Karen Baxter confirmed that local police were investigating this incident as a potential case of ‘Rogue Trading’ and appealed for anyone with any information to contact them.
The Superintendent explained that “Rogue Trading incidents are where consumers have been ’cold called’ by trades persons and then deliberately overcharging for unsatisfactory goods and/or services. It can include charging for unnecessary work, damaging property deliberately in order to obtain money, leaving work unfinished and intimidating behaviour in order to extort money.  It is known that the offenders travel large distances to commit crime and some of the teams exchange information with distraction burglars.”
She added ‘Rogue Traders are often organised crime groups who prey on vulnerable members of the community. They offer household property services such as clearing gutters, building, and tarmacing as a method to obtain as much money from their victim as possible’.
Superintendent Baxter recognised that the majority of trades people provided a very good service and explained that to satisfy themselves that trades people are genuine prospective clients should ask to see identification and references that can show the quality of their work. She went on to say that ‘where anyone purchases work over £35 they are entitled to a written notice explaining their right to cancel within 7 days, again a genuine traders will have no issues with providing this’. 
“The public should also be aware of bogus callers who depend on the good nature and good will of others. They tend to target the more vulnerable members of our society and in particular senior citizens. Everyone should be cautious of unexpected callers at their home. Our advice is very straightforward. 
“Think before you open the door - use your chain and spy hole or look out of the window to see if you recognise them. Do not open the door unless you know the individual.
“Ask callers for proof of identity. Genuine tradesmen should carry a photographic identification card. Check this carefully. If you are unsure, telephone QuickCheck on 0800 013 22 90.
“The call is free and will be answered by a trained operator. They will take the details of the company, which the caller claims to be visiting on behalf of, then contact the organisation to determine if the caller is genuine. If there is anything suspicious the operator will contact the police directly.”
Everyone should follow this advice when dealing with unexpected visitors:
• Before answering your door, ensure your back door is locked.
• Think before you open the door - use your chain and spy hole or look out of the window to see if you recognise them. 
• Ask callers for proof of identity. Genuine tradesmen should carry a photographic identification card. Check this carefully. If you are unsure, telephone QuickCheck on 0800 013 22 90.
• Beware of callers who attempt to distract you by claiming that they have seen something untoward in your rear garden or somewhere that may encourage you to leave your house - they may have an accomplice who is waiting to act upon this distraction. 
• If you are not convinced of the identity of the caller, don’t let them in. Ask the caller to come back later and arrange for a friend, relative or neighbour to be present on their return. 
Police urge householders to follow some common sense crime prevention measures to ensure that they will not become an opportunist burglar’s next victim. Reassessing your crime prevention routine is an important first step. Ensure your windows are locked as well as doors and make use of security lighting and alarms. Police would also advise householders to not keep large sums of money in the house. 
Anyone who would like further crime prevention advice on this or any other subject should contact their local police on 0845 600 8000  or speak directly with their local neighbourhood officer. Anyone with information about bogus callers or who witnesses any suspicious activity should also contact police.

Muir achieves progress concerning Kinnegar Sewage problem

Picture courtesy of bing

I have arranged a meeting with a top official from NI Water after Christmas to discuss the final report into the cause of the ongoing sewage stench in Kinnegar.

I welcome news that a report on the cause of the pollution will soon be ready. I have been informed that an interim report is ready but further exploratory work is being undertaken and a final report will be completed in January 2011. A possible solution has been found which may need extensive engineering work but until the final report is ready the exact picture is unclear.

I have been campaigning for an end to the sewage smell since early 2010 after he used Environmental Legislation  to discover that over 70 odour emission incidents occurred in 2009. Cllr Muir also recently uncovered a pollution problem described as ‘chronic’ with raw sewage discharged into the Kinnegar Lagoons in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The Kinnegar Lagoons contain scenic reed beds and are home to a wide array of wildlife.

Earlier this year I decided that action had to be taken in relation to the Sewage Smell at Kinnegar.  I was fed up with the foul smell which has been in the air for years.

I therefore used Environmental Legislation to discover the true extent of the problem and was shocked to discover that over 70 odour emission incidents occurred throughout 2009. I pressurised NI Water and was delighted when this paid off and NI Water started investing approximately £100,000 to discover the cause of the problem by conducting extensive surveys across the Holywood area.

I was however concerned about the impact on the local environment and carried out further enquiries which revealed numerous pollution incidents in the area. With many types of wildlife living in the polluted area and employees of local companies now informing me they often feel sick as a result of the smell, the time for action is now. People living, working or travelling nearby should not have put up with the pong and pollution. Neither should the many species of wildlife.

I have been assured by NI Water that they are “progressing this issue as a matter of urgency”. I have arranged a meeting after Christmas to review the final report and discuss next steps. I will not rest until this problem is sorted.

Muir welcomes Seapark improvements

North Down Borough Council tonight agreed to improve facilities at Seapark, Holywood after I raised the issue a few weeks ago. The old grey brick benches and flower beds previously built by Enterprise Ulster (pictured left) have long been in a state of disrepair and will soon be demolished.

The area will be tidied up and made much more attractive for the many people who visit the area from Holywood and further afield. 

I am glad to have achieved such progress but will continue to press for further improvements with Seapark a popular destination, especially in the Summer months with improved car parking and additional attractions urgently required.

Tonight’s move is an important first step which ensures that Holywood remains the ultimate place in Ireland to work, live and visit.

Postponement of Save our Reservoirs Public Meeting

Save our Reservoirs Campaign Public Meeting scheduled to take place this evening was unfortunately cancelled due to ice at Bangor Sportsplex which can't be used due to Health & Safety issues.

New date and time to be advised with rescheduled meeting hopefully to take place in early January 2011.

Sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. I was informed of the decision to disallow use of the Sportsplex late afternoon and endeavoured to contact as many people as possible.

If you want to keep up to date about the Save our Reservoirs campaign please join my email list by emailing mail@andrewmuir.net 

Muir calls for more grit boxes

I strongly believe that more grit boxes should be made available across the Borough. I am making this call after being inundated by requests for side roads to be salted by residents in the Holywood area.

The recent cold snap means that many roads and pavements are very slippy, covered in ice and treacherous to use. Whilst I welcome the work undertaken by the Roads Service to grit all major roads more grit boxes should be available for people to salt minor roads and pavements.

One resident recently informed me “I would happily take my own time to grit the street for the residents if a grit box was provided for are use so people can go about their daily routine without the risk of injury.”

I have therefore communicated requests for grit boxes to the Roads Service and hope they will consider these favourably. People are prepared to work in partnership with the Roads Service, I hope they will reciprocate this gesture.

Muir raises Twisel Bridge Flooding Fears

I am concerned that the area around Twisel Bridge, Holywood could soon be flooded if immediate action isn’t taken. I am pressing the Rivers Agency to take action but fear it may soon be too late.

In late September I asked the Rivers Agency to remove the large tree trunks in the river near Twisel Bridge. In response they refused to move the tree trunks, stating they would only initiate action to ensure removal if there was “risk of a signficant increase of flooding”. The tree trunks have now moved as a result of the recent heavy rainfall and are very near the entrance to the culvert. If they aren’t immediately removed I fear that they will soon block the culvert with many houses in the nearby area flooded.”

I have asked the Rivers Agency to ensure the immediate removal of the tree trunks before many houses in Holywood are submerged in flood water.  The time for action is now.

Muir works to ban circuses involving animals

I have managed to partially close a loophole being used by circuses involving animals. The loophole has allowed them to easily establish circuses at sites across Northern Ireland and was recently exploited when Circus Vegas arrived on the Gransha Road, Bangor.

When Circus Vegas made their application a few months ago to North Down Borough Council to setup on the site of the old Bangor Academy School on the Gransha Road I was concerned but, unfortunately, it was approved as Council hands are tied. It seems that Councils in Northern Ireland cannot, unfortunately, refuse applications on land not owned by the Council simply because they disagree with animals featuring in circuses.

Conscious that the Circus was set-up on land owned by South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) I contacted the Board without any success. I then contacted the Minister for Education and requested that she intervene. In response CaitrĂ­ona Ruane informed me that she shared my concerns and suggested that I write to the Chief Executive for each Education and Library Board.

After contacting each Board I can now report that SEELB have decided to ban circuses involving animals from any SEELB land. The Western Board has also agreed to implement a similar ban but the North Eastern Board is refusing to take action with a Senior Official informing me that “I am content that the circuses using the Board’s lands are fully in compliance with the law”.

Belfast Board informs me that no applications have yet been received by circuses and, if so, would be carefully considered. The Southern Board hasn’t bothered to reply to my letter. I am however following this up.

Whilst I welcome the moves by SEELB and WELB I call upon the Minister for Education to intervene and ensure NEELB stops allowing their land to be used by circuses involving animals. Warm words of support must be followed up with real action.

Evidence from the Alliance for Animal Rights details “Animals in circuses live a life of restriction, cages, chains and constant transportation. All for a few minutes performing in the ring in the name of ‘entertainment’.”

With animals sometimes forced to perform confusing, uncomfortable, repetitious and often-painful acts I am glad that my actions will make it more difficult for circuses involving animals to establish at many sites across Northern Ireland. It will also be a relief for people living near the old Bangor Academy School who had the endure the circus on their doorstep during late July / early August 2010.

I will continue to campaign to see a Northern Ireland wide ban on circuses involving animals. Until the Agriculture Minister acts I will endeavour to close all available loopholes. Animal welfare must be higher up the political agenda.