Wednesday, 30 June 2010

North Down Alliance select Muir for Council

PRESS RELEASE

North Down Alliance select Muir for Council

North Down Alliance Association has selected Andrew Muir to replace Dr David Alderdice as a member of North Down Borough Council, representing the Holywood area.

David Alderdice last week announced his resignation from the Council due to work pressures. Under electoral law, the Council Chief Executive will notify the Chief Electoral Officer about the vacancy. He in turn will write to the Leader of the Alliance Party, David Ford, seeking a nomination to fill that vacancy. Under Alliance procedures, the Party Leader will follow the decision of the local Association.

Andrew Muir is aged 33, was born and raised in North Down, holds a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Ulster and works as a Manager with Translink.  Andrew is currently Chairperson of North Down Alliance Party Association and is involved with a number of organisations including, amongst others, North Down District Policing Partnership and Friends of the Earth. Andrew is also a keen  amateur athlete competing for North Down Athletics Club in road races across Ireland.

Andrew Muir stated “I feel immensely proud of the Alliance Party record in the Holywood area. Dr David Alderdice has diligently served the area since 2005 and he will be sorely missed. I am extremely grateful for the excellent legacy left by David and am looking forward to serving the people of Holywood, building a Shared Future and safeguarding the environment as part of a strong Alliance team on North Down Borough Council”.

North Down Alliance MLA and Council Group Leader, Stephen Farry added “I first would like to pay my own tribute to David Alderdice. David was a valued member of the local team, and brought a wealth of experience and commonsense to deliberations in North Down, and played an active role in the community life of his home town of Holywood. He will be missed. The party fully understands and respects his need to prioritise his medical career and his family. David will be supporting the party from behind the scenes, and I would not be surprised to see him returning to the frontline at some stage in the future.

I have known Andrew Muir for almost 20 years, and very aware of his abilities. He has considerable intellect, enthusiasm, and energy. He has much to offer North Down Council and the people of Holywood. I look forward to him joining our Council group shortly.”

ENDS

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Muir calls for Roads Service to give green light at busy junction


This week I have called for action before a road traffic accident occurs at a busy Bangor junction by highlighting a problem with the traffic lights controlling the Abbey Street junction in Bangor. 

A local resident recently contacted me with regards to the road junction connecting the Belfast Road, Abbey Street, Newtownards and Brunswick Roads in Bangor. Motorists driving towards Bangor along the Belfast Road who attempt to turn right up towards the Newtownards Road are not offered a filter light. Instead they have to compete against the high volumes of traffic travelling out of Bangor towards Belfast. A few seconds later the green light goes red and leaves the motorist stranded in the middle of the junction whilst Belfast bound traffic continues to flow.

Motorists stranded in the middle of the junction trying to turn right towards Newtownards are forced to make risky manoeuvres to get out of the junction before traffic from Newtownards gets to go ahead. A filter light is therefore urgently required to give these motorists a few seconds to turn right safely without being placed in "no mans" land having to dodge cars to get from A to B.

Figures I recently obtained from the Police indicate that during the last five years eleven Road Traffic collisions have taken place at the junction with one person seriously injured and twenty one people slightly injured as a result of the collisions. Safety at the junction is therefore an issue.

The Abbey Street junction in Bangor was the first road junction in Bangor to receive traffic lights in March 1968. When the junction was signalised it cost £8,400 and the Spectator reported "When traffic builds up an automatic controller will extend the "green" phase long enough to allow the queue of vehicles to disperse". 42 years later the Roads Service should invest a bit of extra cash to ensure the junction continues to meet it's original objectives to give motorists enough time to safely disperse.

I have emailed the Roads Service and hope they will accede to my request that the junction gets this small but very important upgrade to ensure motorists can make safe and efficient journeys.

26 June 2010

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Muir calls for action on Cycle Paths in advance of Bike Week

In advance of Bike Week which runs from 19 – 27 June I have raised the lack of off road Cycle Paths across North Down whilst also highlighting the issue of a "lethal" cycle path.

Compared to other large Towns across Northern Ireland Bangor has a limited infrastructure of dedicated off road Cycle Paths. Whilst I welcome the recent addition of a number of cycle paths at the side of the road around Bangor plus many more advanced stop lines for cycles at traffic lights other towns  such as Lisburn have a much more extensive cycling infrastructure with a dedicated off road cycle path from Lisburn to Belfast alongside the River Lagan.

Whilst plans are underway to upgrade North Down Coastal Path to Sustrans standards which will accommodate bicycles no firm date has been set when the entire path will be upgraded.

North Down Borough Council have advised me that the Bangor to Helen’s Bay section (Phase 1) has been upgraded. The Council have also advised that work to upgrade Helen's Bay to Cultra section (Phase 2) is ongoing with Glen Road to Station Road scheme nearing completion and work at Rockport anticipated to be completed by March 2012 at the latest. Funding is currently being sought to improve the section at Seahill.

No work is however currently planned to upgrade the last section from Cultra to Holywood (Phase 3) with a funding bid to be resubmitted to NI Environment Agency when the next round of funding opens. With public spending increasingly tight I don’t have much hope that the money will be forthcoming in the near future.

Whilst North Down Borough Council provides great leadership by encouraging cycling and upgrades the Coastal Path cyclists attempting to make their way from Bangor to Belfast have to compete with cars, buses and lorries on the busy A2 carriageway for a significant part of their journey. More concerted action is desperately needed to facilitate bicycles across the Borough. Nearly 80,000 people live in North Down with over 40,000 cars travel each day on the A2 Bangor to Belfast road.

I welcome the recent announcement that the Roads Service will extend the cycle path from Coach Hill bend to Ballyrobert this summer as part of the A2 road resurfacing which will take place during July and August 2010.

More concerted action should however be taken. NI Environment Agency should ensure that sufficient funds are released to allow the full upgrade of the North Down Coastal Path.

Since it will take a number of years for the Coastal Path to be fully upgraded I have written to the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy asking that he consider creating a segregated cycle path along the footpath on the A2 from Ballyrobert to Kinnegar. Many other Towns and Cities across Ireland and Great Britain have managed to create cycle paths along the footpath, enabling cyclists to make their journey from A to B in a much safer manner.

By implementing my suggestion cycling between Belfast and Bangor would be much more safer. It would also allow people to choose the quicker and more healthy alternative to sitting in a car often stuck in jams on the A2 whilst also reducing carbon emissions. I recently cycled from Bangor to Belfast and discovered that on a busy day it can be quicker to cycle from Bangor to Belfast rather than take the car! Cycling therefore make sense! I have written to the Regional Development Minister outlining my suggestion and hope that it will be given active consideration.

Creating more cycle paths is only one part of the jigsaw. More secure bicycle storage facilities are also required. In other cities across Europe local Councils have provided dedicated secure parking for bicycles in well light multi story car parks equipped with CCTV. We need the same sort of facilities in North Down so that cyclists can be assured that their bicycle will be there when they return!

The cycle paths provided should also be safe and maintained on a regular basis. After a spate of problems with glass and other debris on the cycle paths they seem to be clean and devoid of glass. It is good to see that the relevant authorities are keeping the paths clean.

A number of people have recently contacted me about the Belfast bound cycle path on  the A2 running from Bangor to Craigantlet. I haven’t often used this path, preferring instead to travel on the Bangor bound side beside Dickson’s Garden Centre. When people are cycling along the Belfast bound path it suddenly ends at the Ballysallagh Road junction. Cyclists are then forced to dismount and navigate the busy A2 Craigantlet junction if they wish to travel to Belfast. Picture on the right shows me at the start of this path.

Urgent action is required to ensure no cyclists are injured as a result of this lethal cycle path. Signage should be erected at the pelican crossing near the entrance to Clandeboye Estate advising cyclists they should cross the A2 at the pelican crossing if they wish to travel onwards to Belfast. I have outlined my  request to Roads Service officials and they are currently investigating my request for some signage to be erected.

Cycling is both good for the body and the environment providing people with the opportunity to quickly travel from A to B without the stress of being caught up in traffic jams.  Government should ensure that the North Down cycle path infrastructure is up to scratch in order to facilitate those who want to make the move from the car to the bicycle. I hope the Roads Minister will take the necessary action to get the wheels in motion before Bike Week arrives.

17 June 2010

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Muir welcomes progress in tackling Kinnegar Sewage Smell

As readers may be aware I have been campaigning to secure an end to the Sewage Smell from Kinnegar Sewage Plant, and the area that surrounds it, for the last number of months.

After initially raising the matter with NI Water in February 2010 I was supplied with shocking statistics detailing a systemic problem in relation to Odour Emissions from the Sewage Plant with no fewer than 74 odour emission incidents in 2009 with the summer months of July, August and September particularly bad with over 50 odour emission incidents.

After receiving these shocking statistics I met with Senior Management from NI Water along with a local Kinnegar resident and was informed that NI Water were currently investigating the cause of the problem and hoped to find a solution”.

I have now been informed this week that a special team has been commissioned to look into the matter and make recommendations concerning possible solutions to the problem. The team has already made some initial findings which seems promising. The Senior Manager from NI Water has informed me that ‘
emerging findings are that there are three potential storm overflows in NI Water network which could contribute to sewage discharges to the reed beds adjacent to the Waste Water Treatment Works.’

The Senior NI Water official will now be organising surveys of the sewerage system over the summer which, I am informed by the official, will
‘enable us to design a new drainage model to reduce, or preferably, eliminate the problem.’. The condition of the reed beds near Kinnegar Sewage Plant will also be examined and solutions sought to reduce the smell that emanates from them.

NI Water have informed me that their investigations will be thorough and will extend beyond the immediate area with Holywood’s sewerage system also to be checked. NI Water aim to complete their thorough investigation and produce a report by the end of October 2010.

As someone who cares passionately about the environment I welcome the progress but will continue to lobby NI Water and pile on the pressure until the odour problem is resolved. It is vital that our environment is safeguarded and a solution is implemented so that people living, working or travelling past Holywood no longer have to endure such a disgusting smell.

12 June 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Snow Patrol, Just Say Yes!


In advance of the BBC screening of the concert tonight I wish to express my thanks to North Down Borough Council, the Police Service of NI and all others involved in the Snow Patrol concert which took place on Saturday 5 June 2010 at Ward Park, Bangor.

I managed to secure tickets to attend the concert for my partner and I and we really enjoyed the event.  Snow Patrol truly took back the town (rather than the city!) and made me feel very proud as a Bangorian that North Down was able to host such a fantastic event. 

Businesses across the Borough benefited from the concert with little trouble and positive image of North Down portrayed as a vibrant, dynamic and diverse Borough.

I, and many others, often have to travel to Belfast and beyond for entertainment but on Saturday night we were able to give up Chasing Cars and dander to and from the concert.

With such a big event some problems were bound to occur but, thankfully, these were relatively small with only a few people arrested and thousands successfully transported home by Translink. Whilst I was annoyed at having to wait about an hour to buy a pint I am prepared to let such issues pale into insignificance when you consider that over 40,000 people attended the Concert.

If anyone asks me whether I want more similar events in North Down my answer is simple, Just Say Yes!

9 June 2010