Thursday, 30 September 2010

Muir continues battle to save Reservoirs

I recently discovered that the six reservoirs in the Craigantlet area have been granted a temporary reprieve but that Portavoe Reservoir near Groomsport is scheduled for sale in 2011/12. Following my recent meeting with NI Water concerning their plans to sell the six reservoirs in the Craigantlet area I learned that NI Water don’t intend to start selling the Craigantlet Reservoirs until 2013 but that Portavoe Reservoir is scheduled for sale in 2011/12.

I therefore intend to step up my campaign to save the reservoirs and am seeking a meeting with the Department for Regional Development in order to halt NI Water’s plans to sell the picturesque Reservoirs.

At my meeting with NI Water on Friday 17 September 2010 I received some reassuring news. The Senior NI Water official informed me that they do not intend to dispose of the Craigantlet reservoirs next year. The two Reservoirs at Ballysallagh and Conlig are scheduled for sale in 2013/14 with the sale of the Church Road and Creighton’s Green Reservoirs scheduled for 2015/16. This temporary reprieve is however now overshadowed by the shocking news that Portavoe Impounding Reservoir is currently listed for disposal in 2011/12.

It is vital all seven Reservoirs remain in public hands. Since I made the public aware of NI Water’s plans to sell the reservoirs in the Craigantlet area I have been contacted by people across Northern Ireland concerned about NI Water’s plans to sell what are known as Impounding Reservoirs. For example, I was recently informed that Stoneyford Reservoir near Lisburn is no longer available for Angling from 17 February this year and will be sold in 2013/14. After making enquires I am also informed that Portavoe Reservoir between Groomsport and Donaghadee is scheduled for sale in 2011/12.

The issue concerning the sale of Reservoirs therefore requires a strategic and prompt response from government who can’t talk about wanting to “protect and enhance our environment and natural resources” in their Programme for Government or promoting sport and recreation and then wash their hands of NI Water’s plans to sell many reservoirs across Northern Ireland.

During my meeting it became apparent that since NI Water is now a Government owned Company (GoCo) the way they deal  with the disposal of assets is very different compared to government departments. I therefore intend to press the Department for Regional Development to intervene and ensure a more sensible course of action is taken. Responsibility for the assets should, I suggest, be transferred to the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development and or Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Sale of the Reservoirs by NI Water would, I believe, be both risky and short sighted. It is vital the Reservoirs are retained in public hands to ensure they are properly maintained and available for use by local Angling Clubs and the general public, if and where this can be safely accommodated.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Inspirational visit to Camphill Community, Glencraig

Meeting with Camphill Community Glencraig
along with Cllr Anne Wilson on 28 Sept 2010
I visited the Camphill Community Glencraig today along with Cllr Anne Wilson and left inspired, motivated and keen to tell people about the great work being undertaken.


More information about Camphill can be found at www.glencraig.org.uk and by viewing the excellent video below;





Sewage pollution incident update

Readers may recall that a few weeks ago I exposed a sewage pollution incident which occurred on Monday 16 August 2010 in the Carnalea area plus Crawfordsburn and Helen's Bay beaches.

More details about my initial report can be found at 
http://www.andrewmuir.net/2010/08/muir-condemns-sewage-pollution-incident.html

I have now received 
a full report concerning the incident  from NI Water, detailed below;
During the heavy rain on the 16th August 2010, the combined sewer overflows (CSO’s) in the area discharged storm sewerage into the applicable receiving waters. The CSO adjacent to Carnalea Golf Club was one of those which discharged into the unnamed stream , which then flows into Belfast Lough. NIW attended this location after your call, but were unable to carry out any work as it had become too dark. The next day, NIW instructed their Contractor to carry out a clean up of the area. This was carried out that day.
I understand that Mark Consiglia provided you with a verbal update on the 17th. Mark checked the CSO and confirmed that it had stopped spilling once the rain event had passed and it was Mark who arranged the clean up.
CSO’s are designed to spill excess flows during rain fall events, to relieve the sewers when running full so as to minimise the risk of flooding to properties etc. The provision of CSO’s on sewerage systems is an industry wide practice. In this instance, the discharge from the CSO is consented by Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
However, NIW are committed to improving their sewerage systems. This includes looking at the environmental impact of such discharges and Northern Ireland Water is in the process of completing the Bangor Drainage Area Study (DAS), which has identified key assets for upgrading of the sewerage system within the Bangor catchment. This Study has identified a number of CSO’s and sewers within the Bangor area that must be improved to meet more stringent standards set by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) than were previously in force. One of these is the CSO located beside Carnalea Golf Club.
Subject to budgetary approval, the Bangor Drainage Area Plan (DAP) is currently in the Capital Works Programme for delivery in Price Control Period 10 that runs from April 2010 to March 2013.


I will continue to lobby NI Water to ensure the necessary investment is made to avoid incidents such as those outlined above.

Friday, 24 September 2010

More students undertaking Further Education in N Down

Earlier this week I received a useful update from the South Eastern Regional College.

Principal and Chief Executive Ken Webb advises me that over the last 2 years the number of full time Further Education enrolments has increased by 17.5% at their Bangor and Ards Campuses.

The College continues to work with local businesses enabling them to grow whilst also offering placements to offer students "real life" experiences.



Funding for 2010/11 has been confirmed and whilst the College managed to secure 17% of the total Further Education funding in Northern Ireland it doesn't represent a significant increase compared to previous years. It is also recognised that the financial situation will be tougher once the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review are announced later this year.


I therefore remind readers that courses at your local College are subject to demand and urge people to support their local College. More information about SERC and the Courses offered can be found at www.serc.ac.uk

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Muir welcomes cycling improvements on 15th Anniversary of National Cycle Network


Cllr Andrew Muir and Sustrans
CEO Malcolm Shepherd 

Fifteen years ago Sustrans had the courage to start creating a National Cycle Network across Northern Ireland. Since then they have managed to create 12,600 miles of cycle paths and lanes across the UK and continue to promote cycling as the quick, cheap, easy and environmentally friendly way to travel.

The National Cycle Network has proven very popular with 407 million trips on the Network in 2009 consisting of 208 million cycling trips and 199 million on foot.
On Saturday morning (18 September 2010) Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd joined Sustrans Rangers, Sustrans staff, cyclists and myself to cycle from Bangor to Belfast along the North Down Coastal Path.

Whilst a wet and cold morning it was an extremely enjoyable experience. When I arrived in Holywood I felt refreshed and de-stressed. Most of the group then continued to the Titanic Quarter where they were met by First Minister Peter Robinson MLA and East Belfast 
MP Naomi Long.
It was a pleasure to meet Malcolm. As a local Councillor and Sustrans Ranger I briefed Malcolm on the issues concerning cycling in North Down and he is extremely supportive of ongoing efforts to improve our cycling infrastructure across North Down and Northern Ireland generally.
As a local Alliance Party Councillor I am very grateful to the Roads Service for the work undertaken on the A2 Bangor to Belfast Road during the last few weeks which has resulted in the extension of the cycle path from the Coach Hill bend to Ballyrobert.

Together with the additional cycle lanes and green Advance Stop lines across Bangor the Roads Service are helping to make cycling safer, quicker and more attractive.
I recently received a reply from the Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy MP MLA concerning my proposal to extend the cycle path from Ballyrobert to Kinnegar, Holywood along the footpath alongside the busy A2 Belfast to Bangor road. I was informed that whilst the proposal would be beneficial it isn't currently planned as part of the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan.

Minister Murphy did however state that an Active Travel Forum has been established and will influence a future Active Travel Strategy which may accommodate proposals such as the A2 cycle lane idea. My idea would provide a safer and more attractive means for cyclists to travel between Belfast and Bangor rather than having to compete with vehicles along the busy A2.
I will seek to influence the Active Travel Strategy to ensure the A2 cycle path is realised in the short term whilst also stepping up efforts to ensure funding is provided by government to enable upgrade of the last remaining section of the North Down Coastal Path.

Once the Coastal Path is fully upgraded it will connect North Down with the National Cycle Network and accommodate pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

North Down Alliance embarks on busy Autumn programme

The North Down Alliance Executive Committee met last week for a well attended meeting discussing fundraising, activism, Local Government and Assembly affairs.

Thanks were expressed to all those who helped with the organisation of the Summer Fair with Association Treasurer Chris Mackey reporting that the Summer Fair raised a substantial amount of money and that the Association was well on the way to meeting its Fundraising targets for the year.

Association Chair Andrew Muir explained that a number of other events were in the pipeline over the next few months including: a table-quiz jointly organised with Strangford Association on 5 November at 7.30pm, a Coffee Morning celebrating the 40 anniversary of the founding of the Alliance Party on Saturday 9 October hosted by Stephen Farry MLA, a Wine Tasting event and an evening to discuss Mental Health policy.

Dr Stephen Farry MLA gave members an update on Assembly business and an update on North Down Borough Council business was given by each of the Councillors in attendance. Newly appointed Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir thanked everyone for the confidence that the Association bestowed on him by selecting him as Councillor and stated that he is enjoying his new role.

If anyone is interested in attending any North Down Alliance events then please contact Michael Bower on 028 9185 9475.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

RNLI Awarded Freedom of the Borough

The RNLI were granted Freedom of the Borough by North Down Borough Council on Saturday 18 September 2010 with a formal ceremony at Bangor Town Hall, Mayoral Inspection of the crew and demonstration at the Pier followed by Civic Reception at Bangor Town Hall.

Bangor first received a lifeboat in 1965 originally based at the Tower House, Quay Street, Bangor which now accommodates the Town's Tourist Information Office.

The RNLI received a new boathouse at the Harbour in 1984 from North Down Borough Council and have been based at the same location at the bottom of the Eisenhower Pier since then, with a new boathouse built on the same site in 2002, again provided by North Down Borough Council.

I clearly remember watching the opening of the boathouse in 1984 along with my Mum and Sister on a cold day, just after I was collected from Primary School. I recall watching Councillors on the stage and the boat on display, wanting to eventually become either a Councillor or RNLI volunteer. I feel very privileged I was able to attend the event on Saturday, 26 years later as an Councillor born and bred in North Down.


I enjoyed meeting the various members of crew on Saturday and learning more about the diverse range of work the RNLI undertake. I was especially interested in the history associated with the RNLI, lessons learnt after major incidents such as the sinking of the Princess Victoria and the 1979 Fastnet disaster and the new challenges the RNLI are facing such as assisting with Flood Rescues.

As far as I am aware Freedom of the Borough entitles holders to take their sheep down Main Street. Whilst Freedom of the Borough does not therefore confer many significant entitlements it is a symbolic and extremely well deserved recognition by the people of North Down for the courageous and selfless service by all the volunteers and staff associated with the RNLI.

In order to keep up to date about RNLI Bangor I have subscribed to their Mobile Text Message update service. Everytime the lifeboat is launched you receive a text message and make a small donation! You can sign up at http://www.rnli.org.uk/what_we_do/lifeboats/launches/mobile_phone/ 

Friday, 17 September 2010

Meeting to be held concerning plan to sell Craigantlet reservoirs

I am holding talks with NI Water today (Friday 17 September 2010) concerning their plans to sell all six reservoirs in the Craigantlet area.

I recently became aware of NI Water’s plan to sell four reservoirs in the Craigantlet area at Church Road, Creighton’s Green, Ballysallagh Lower and Upper. Upon further investigation I became aware that they also plan to sell the two reservoirs in Conlig.

A senior official from NI Water informed me on 26 August 2010 that ‘Northern Ireland Water currently owns the four impounding reservoirs in the Craigantlet area and the two in the Conlig area.  All six impounding reservoirs are currently out of service and Northern Ireland Water is in the process of formally declaring these locations no longer required for future use’. He also informed me that ‘any disposal will be in accordance with Northern Ireland Water's disposal strategy’.

I have since obtained a copy of their Disposal Strategy via a Freedom of Information request and it appears that, according to their Disposal Strategy, the land will first be offered to the original land owners. The current market value will be sought and, if the original land owner isn’t interested, NI Water will attempt to sell the land through its professional property advisor on a ‘no sale no fee’ basis or through tender or multiple auction. The Disposal Strategy is however a complicated document which seems to have been hastily written without a date when it was issued and is still a draft document.

After becoming aware of NI Water’s plans I immediately contacted some of the Angling groups which use the reservoirs. I am extremely keen that they retain the right to use the reservoirs for fishing. Whilst the reservoirs are no longer required as a result of NI Water’s new Water Resource Strategy they have great potential to become places for the public to enjoy. I cannot foresee why Anglers cannot continue to use the Reservoirs whilst also enhancing the parkland surrounding the reservoirs to create excellent walks.

I am very concerned that NI Water intend to sell these reservoirs which were built and maintained at the tax payers expense during the last 75 years. At my meeting on Friday I intend to find out more about NI Water’s plans and lobby them to abandon their proposed sale of the reservoirs.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sky Developments financial difficulties

I am concerned after it was reported that energy efficiency specialists Sky Developments (NI) have been placed into administration.

It is particularly regrettable that this Holywood based firm has encountered financial difficulties when Northern Ireland needs companies such as Sky Developments to tackle Climate Change.


Their 'Green House' in Kinnegar, Holywood is extremely impressive and a role model property in terms of energy efficiency. 


I hope the administrators will be able to save the company and safeguard the maximum amount of jobs possible

Muir comments on vicious attack on pet cat

PRESS RELEASE
North Down Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir has expressed his horror after learning about the death of a pet cat in the Primacy area, Bangor. Councillor Muir was contacted by a member of the public late last week who was concerned after it appeared that their pet cat had been killed by a stray Black and Tan Rottweiler dog.

Commenting on the incident, Cllr Muir stated “After being informed of the incident by the member of the public I contacted Council officers and it appears that a stray Black and Tan Rottweiler dog was collected by North Down Borough Council at 11am on Thursday 9 September 2010. Neighbours feel it was this dog which killed the cat. The dog is now being held in kennels.
 
Continuing, Cllr Muir remarked “If no owner is identified the kennels will have to decide whether to re-home or destroy the dog. If owners are identified it seems that Council powers are limited. From what I understand North Down Borough Council may take action because the dog was stray and possibly without a Dog Licence but cannot take action concerning the death of the cat as it is a dog on cat attack rather than dog on human. The only action relating to the death of the cat that can be taken is by the cat owner against the owner of the dog for damage inflicted upon his property”
 
Concluding, Andrew stated “The legislation concerning dogs urgently needs reviewed by NI Assembly to ensure that the authorities are granted enhanced and clearly defined enforcement powers. In the meantime I would urge all dog owners to ensure their dogs are kept securely and on leads when out and about across the Borough. Whilst I recognise that the vast majority of dog owners are in fact dog lovers and very law abiding this incident is very concerning. If the dog was able to inflict such harm on a pet cat a danger also exists in terms of small babies and children”.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

King John's Highway blockade update

King John's Highway Wed 8/9/10
I visited the King John's Highway, Creighton's Green Road, Holywood on Wednesday 8 September 2010 and can report that it is now partially open.

It appears that the pedestrian gate has been removed by the Council who are endeavouring to get the path fully opened in the near future. 

Friday, 10 September 2010

Friends of the Earth North Down & Ards

Friends of the Earth North Down and Ards group are meeting on Thursday 23 September 2010, 7.30pm in Bangor.

We haven't met for a while and are re-grouping to consider future campaigns to take forward.

If you are interested in getting involved, have some ideas etc. please contact me and I will send you details about the meeting.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

North Down Citizens Advice Service - Holywood

North Down Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides a drop in service in Holywood, which has been long established providing advice on matters such as;

Housing, Benefits, Debt, Education, Employment, Health, Immigration, Discrimination, Consumer and Legal Matters.

The CAB office is based at the Queens Leisure Complex, Holywood and can provide people with a free, impartial, confidential and independent service by fully trained advisers that can help resolve problems. 

They provide practical help such as making telephone calls and writing letters on clients behalf. Filling in forms for benefits that can be very daunting to some. They negotiate with companies or other service providers such as creditors or appeal against decisions, for example, social security benefit claims. 

On a Wednesday between 12pm & 1pm they offer a FREE Legal Service where they provide a solicitor for 15 minute block appointments. 

If clients have more complex problems they ensure that the client is referred to other agencies where appropriate. 

It is the aim of the Citizens Advice Service, to ensure that individuals do not suffer through: 
Lack of knowledge of their rights and responsibilities 
Lack of knowledge of the services available to them. 
An inability to express their needs effectively and 

To exercise a responsible influence on the development of social services both locally and nationally. 

Opening hours: Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu & Fri – 9:30am to 2:30pm - NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY! 
Helpline number: 028 90 428288 
Email: northdowncab@citizensadvice.co.uk 

Multi cultural Free Fun Day

Received information today about an interesting and fun Multi Cultural Day will take place on Saturday 18 September 2010, 2pm to 4pm at Redburn Community Centre which you may be interested in.

Activities will include;

Bouncy slide / castle

Chinese Calligraphy / Origami

Indian Henna Body Art / Indian Dance

Flamenco Dance / Display / Workshop

Face painting / beading workshop

Chinese / Indian Food Tasting

Irish Dancing

All welcome

Come along, enjoy and share your views on what else should be available in the Holywood area

Monday, 6 September 2010

Trip to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

Just back from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was a great trip and a much needed break. 

We flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Dubrovnik and stayed at Hotel Lapad, Dubrovnik. I highly recommend the trip.



Good points

  • Old City - amazing, tons to see. City Walls are great, loads of great Churches
  • Trip to Mostar and Bosnia and Herzegovina 
  • Customer Service
  • Hotel Lapad 
  • Hotel Kazbek where we ate a few times. Great food and excellent service 
  • Bus service between Lapad and old Town



Bad points

  • Weather in Ireland when we returned - wet, windy and miserable!
  • Food in old City generally poor and over priced, food outside old City much better quality and value for money 
  • Dubrovnik Museum of Modern Art Giacometti exhibition consisted of two sculptures, very disappointing
  • Old City packed when cruise ships regularly arrive 
  • Airport new and modern but too small with no newsagent etc.



Keen to come back and explore more of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina