Saturday, 27 November 2010

Muir convenes Save our Reservoirs Public Meeting

I am holding a Public Meeting concerning the proposed sale of Reservoirs across North Down after discovering that NI Water are considering fast tracking the sale of a number of the sites.

Representatives from a variety of key organisations such as Woodland Trust, RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will be there to provide information.

As a result of information obtained it is clear that Portavoe plus Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs are under clear and present danger. The Reservoirs now face the prospect of being flogged to the highest bidder..

NI Water emails obtained 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

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. 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. This is both a North Down and Northern Ireland wide problem which requires a united approach.

Woodland Trust, RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will be in attendance to provide information.

I hope that the meeting will result in the formation of a Campaign Committee.

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

Holywood Conservation Group success

Holywood Conservation Group can this week report success in relation to 16-18 Victoria Road, Holywood.

When faced with a Judicial Review hearing the NI Planning Service agreed to the Court quashing the Planning Permission for 9 new dwellings at 16-18 Victoria Road, Holywood. This dramatic turnaround was in direct response to legal action initiated by the Holywood Conservation Group. The development was also strongly opposed by local residents, North Down Borough Council, local MLA’s, and Lady Sylvia Hermon MP.

A spokesperson for Holywood Conservation Group said “This outcome should be welcomed by all. This is good news for all Conservation Areas but we are not complacent as there is more work to be done. Our concern is about the Planning Service failing to closely follow their own published policy and procedures. Conservation Areas are a special case in which there is a presumption against intensification of a site.

Nevertheless Holywood Conservation Group has a good relationship with the Planning Service and we wish to continue to work constructively with them to ensure that good decisions are made in the future. We are keen to avoid the need to venture into legal action – a costly exercise for both ourselves and the Planners. We also respect and acknowledge that the Planning Service has a very difficult task in trying to balance conflicting interests in a wide variety of circumstances”.

Holywood Conservation Group was set up in 2002 and has around 200 members. Its primary aim is to conserve quality buildings and trees in and around Holywood so that everyone can enjoy a better environment in which to live and work. In 2004 it was successful in lobbying for a Conservation Area and won a Judicial Review against the Planning Appeals Commission concerning development within the Conservation Area. Additionally, it played a major role in saving Holywood Old School, has organised the funding and planting of 66 trees in the town centre, and continues to influence the design of quality signage in the High Street – Boots and Tesco’s being the most recent examples. The spokesperson concluded “As a voluntary organisation we are wholly dependent upon our loyal supporters. We try to make a difference without stifling reasonable development or business".

As Alliance Councillor for the area I am very satisfied with the outcome achieved by Holywood Conservation Group. The Group has relentlessly campaigned since it’s foundation to ensure sensible planning and has again delivered real success protecting Holywood’s Built Heritage for future generations.

The decision sets an important precedent which will hopefully ensure our Conservation Area is protected and planning policies adhered to. Whilst it’s important for Holywood to grow and develop this must be done sensitively in the context of our general surroundings.

The Planning Service shouldn’t have approved squeezing nine dwellings into the 16-18 Victoria Road site. I am glad common sense has prevailed and look forward to more sensible planning decisions in the future






Friday, 26 November 2010

Muir and Lockhart Alliance candidates for Holywood

The Alliance Party have chosen Bill Lockhart and I to stand for election to North Down Borough Council next year in the Holywood District Electoral Area.

Adam Harbinson and Christine Bower will stand in Ballyholme and Groomsport, Tony Hill and Anne Wilson in Bangor West plus Michael Bower in the Abbey area.

Aged 34 I was born and bred in North Down and work in a professional capacity as a Manager with Translink after being employed as a Manager in the field of Customer Relations, Marketing and IT with a range of arts organisations such as the Grand Opera House, Belfast Festival, Ulster Orchestra and the Arts Council. 

I currently serve as an Alliance Party Councillor on North Down Borough Council representing the Holywood area. I was co-opted to replace Dr David Alderdice in July 2010 after he stood down due to work commitments. I also serve as Chairperson of the local Alliance Party Association in North Down and a member of Alliance Party’s Central Executive Committee. 

I am committed to listening and acting upon the concerns of local people and businesses and building a new peaceful, open and welcoming society which respects difference. I actively work to assist local businesses and support job creation. 

As a keen environmental activist I am also involved in a range of projects to support the creation of a cleaner, greener North Down with sensible planning. I am a eager amateur athlete competing in road runs across Ireland and believe our local parks and sporting facilities should be protected and enhanced.

I am currently leading a number of campaigns such as Save our Reservoirs, Stop the Kinnegar Sewage Smell, Bicycle friendly Borough, Battle to re-open King John’s Highway plus Holywood 5k Race. I am also closely involved with projects such as Holywood YOUnite Festival 2010 and Holywood Shared Services and Spaces.

I am active in a range of organisations such as Friends of the Earth, Holywood Residents Association, Holywood Conservation Group, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, Sustrans, European Movement plus Amnesty International. I am an Independent Member of North Down District Policing Partnership and graduated from the University of Ulster Magee Campus in Derry / Londonderry in 1999 after studying Peace and Conflict Studies.

Dr Bill Lockhart retried as Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Agency at the end of August 2010. Since retirement Bill is active in the local community and is in the process of setting up a Men’s Shed in Holywood – based on the successful Australian model which has delivered positive outcomes in terms of men’s well-being whilst offering practical services to the whole community. He is also on the Working Group for Shared Spaces and Services.
Bill is a Chartered Forensic Psychologist who has worked within the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland for over 30 years. More recently he served as Chief Executive for the Extern organisation from April 1994 to June 2004. He has longstanding knowledge and expertise in both community development and the role of the voluntary sector.


Bill is a graduate in psychology and philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast, and holds postgraduate qualifications in counselling psychology, including a doctorate from Aston University in Birmingham. He holds a range of leadership and management qualifications including a diploma in strategic management. Most recently he completed a short course in leadership in retirement run by Common Purpose and the Said Business School (Oxford University). Bill is a member of the Institute of Directors.

Bill has lived in Holywood for 26 years and prior to that in Bangor. Bill has a range of interests, including painting, photography, photojournalism, learning Irish and sports psychology but is to be found most cold and wet winter weekends managing a youth rugby team.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Muir supports European Week for Waste Reduction

I support European Week for Waste Reduction 2010. European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) takes place from 20 to 28 November across the European Union in order to get people thinking about producing less waste.

The week will hopefully raise awareness and encourage people to talk about how we can reduce how much we throw away. With the cost of sending refuse to landfill ever increasing and fines from the EU on the horizon if we don’t increase the amount we reduce, reuse and recycle the time for action is now.

I am informed that, on average, people are currently generating their our own body weight in rubbish every six weeks. I therefore intend to take my own personal actions to lighten the load during the week by seeking out items with less packaging and cutting down the volume of documents and emails I print.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Bicycle friendly Borough - Public meeting organised by Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth North Down and Ards local group would like to invite you to our Public Meeting concerning Cycling in North Down.

The meeting will discuss potential campaign to create a Bicycle friendly Borough

Come along and find out more about the benefits of a Bicycle friendly Borough

Get involved in our campaign to change North Down where cycling is safer, quicker and more attractive

Speakers from Sustrans, Belfast Cycle City and Friends of the Earth

Thursday 2 December 7.30pm at Marine Court Hotel, 18-20 Quay Street, Bangor, BT20 5ED

Raffle, Tea and Coffee, Free Admission

For further details contact Andrew Muir mail@andrewmuir.net Tel 07813 945411

Monday, 15 November 2010

Holywood YOUnite Festival 2010

The Holywood Shared Spaces and Services Team, working with North Down Borough Council Good Relations Section, has partnered with Beyond Skin, Homely Planet, the PSNI, Redburn Loughview Community Forum and Unite Against Hate, to deliver aweek of activities.

The Holywood YOUnite Festival will address the hard issues of Good Relations in raising awareness of sectarianism and racism and how they affect our community.  The purpose of the week is to promote the concept of Holywood as a shared community, which has a zero tolerance approach to hate crime and its many manifestations. The week will promote equality and a culture of mutual respect and tolerance where diversity is embraced and celebrated.

Details of the events taking place during the festival week are outlined below:

Friday 19th – Sports Event
(Sporting blitz and competition with 11-16 yr olds - St. Paul's GAA grounds)

Friday 19th – Workshop on sport and sectarianism
(For the children who take part in the sports event. Queen’s Leisure Complex from 6pm – 7.30pm)

Saturday 20th – Everybody Comes To Holywood
(Youth Radio & Music workshop @ Christian Fellowships Church, Holywood 3pm – 5pm)

Monday 22nd – Polish Folk Art Workshop
(7pm - 9 pm with the RECON Youth Group at Holywood Presbyterian Church)

Monday 22nd – ‘Our Shared Past’
(Talk by Con Auld in Holywood Library from 7pm - 8.45pm)

Tuesday 23rd - Taste of Holywood – Multicultural Food Evening
(7-10 pm in Redburn Community Centre. Invite Only)

Wednesday 24th – Holywood Talks Back
(Adult Discussion in Redburn Community Centre from 7pm -9 pm)

Thursday 25th – Workshop with Dominic Bryan from QUB on Flags and Emblems
(Redburn Community Centre from 7pm - 9.30 pm)

Friday 26th – Workshop with Jackie McArthur (on music and conflict in the Youth Wing of the Queen’s Leisure Complex with Holywood True Blues Flute Band and a loyalist bodhran group from Rathgill in Bangor)

Saturday 27th – ‘Toast of Holywood’ – Holywood YOUnite Festival Award Ceremony
(Redburn Community Centre from 7pm - 10 pm. Invite Only).

Saturday 27th – Live music at High Street locations 1pm – 4pm

If you require more information on any of the events taking place please do not hesitate to contact Patricia O'Toole 028 9042 1420 Patricia.O'Toole@northdown.gov.uk



Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Dunville Family and Remembrance Sunday in Holywood

I attended the Remembrance Sunday in Holywood today for the first time as a Councillor. It was a moving ceremony attended by many people.

After the Mayor laid a Wreath the "Dunville Wreath" was laid by one of the Councillors from the Holywood area.

Whilst I am aware that the Dunville family and Holywood are closely linked and Redburn Country Park contains many interesting sights linking us back to the Dunville Era I conducted some research today about the Wreath.

The history behind the Dunville Wreath is very interesting. It is laid after a request was left by John Dunville's widow Violet that a wreath is left each Armistice Day in memory of her son, John Spencer Dunville, V.C.

More information about the Dunville Wreath and the strong association between Holywood and the Dunville family can be found at http://www.dumville.org/whiskey.html 

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

Monday, 8 November 2010

Muir calls for action concerning Bangor's Graffiti Gateway

I want the Roads Service to clean up it's act and remove graffiti at a key Gateway into Bangor. I  reported graffiti under the Springhill Flyover on 17 August 2010 and has now received a reply from a Senior Roads Service Official detailing that "removal of graffiti of a general nature cannot be justified". I am concerned that this sets a dangerous precedent applicable across Northern Ireland and has asked authorities to re-think their decision.

A number of weeks ago graffiti appeared under the Springhill Flyover on the Belfast Road which leads directly into Bangor Town Centre from main Belfast to Bangor Road. I promptly contacted the Roads Service and was informed that offensive aspects would removed when resources allow.

With all the graffiti still remaining including sectarian aspects I again contacted the Roads Service requesting prompt removal but no action was forthcoming. When I threatened to paint over the offensive graffiti myself action mysteriously took place with the paramilitary makings covered up on 12 October. 

We now have a situation where the pillars supporting the Springhill Flyover are smothered in graffiti, the Roads Service have their heads in the sand and refuse to take action with the problem now getting worse. In the last few days the gateway is also proving a magnet for fly posters”.

The Belfast Road is a key gateway into Bangor which welcomes many people who live, work or visit Bangor on a daily basis. Failure to remove this graffiti sends out an awful message has the potential to deter visitors and businesses from investing in Bangor when we badly need jobs. Many people have contacted me in relation to the graffiti and are outraged that government is refusing to act.

I condemn outright those who painted this graffiti, especially the sectarian aspects. This kind of behaviour is the last thing we need as we battle to build a Shared Society and grow our economy. They should be pursued with vigour by the Police.

I do however urge the Roads Service to reconsider their decision and deploy resources to remove this awful graffiti without any further delay. Their decision to not remove graffiti of a general nature sets a dangerous precedent and I hope they re-think their flawed decision.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Time government learnt lessons from businesses

Whilst the economic downturn is making life tough for many businesses across North Down many rays of hope can be found between the dark and gloomy clouds that have hung over Northern Ireland for far too long.

As a local Councillor I regularly encounter business people who are setting up new enterprises and expanding their current operations. When times are tough I applaud these business men and women for the courage shown.

Businesses across North Down are showing amazing innovation and willingness to take calculated risks which are paying dividends in terms of economic growth, job creation and a positive “can do” spirit.

Whilst some parties shy away from risky decisions, allow billions to be wasted and refuse to implement smart and shared solutions in government businesses are battling on regardless.

With The Little Wing Pizzeria, Frisky Bear and Rabbit Rooms now trading successfully it's apparent that business people in North Down are fit and lean animals, devouring opportunities and enjoying the taste of success.

It's about time politicians and government learnt a few lessons from businesses, stopped wasting billions due to the costs of division and indecision and built a new Northern Ireland. Citizens and businesses should be enabled and supported to realise the many fantastic opportunities that exist by a new form of government which puts smart, shared solutions over separation and small minded disputes.

This article appeared in The Newsletter and The County Down Spectator.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Muir condemns Ballyholme Beach Water Quality failure

I give a cautious welcome to the recent bathing water quality report and news which states that Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn Beaches meet European Standards. I am however critical of NI Water after Ballyholme Beach failed to meet the mandatory requirements for the EC's Bathing Water Directive.

Whilst it's good news that Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn Beaches have been given the green light only a few months ago did I uncover raw sewage in the sea near both beaches. This pollution on 16 August 2010 had been caused by NI Water when their combined sewer overflow near Carnalea Golf Club failed.

Whilst the report may give the beaches a green light it's apparent that the beach isn't sewage free all year round and action is still required. NI Water need to clean up their act. More regular water testing of bathing waters is also required with much more prompt responses when pollution occurs. Two days after the pollution on Monday 16 August 2010 NI Environment Agency only carried out a visual inspection. We had to wait until the Friday before a water sample was taken.

The standard of bathing waters in Ballyholme is a disgrace. Investment urgently needs to be made by NI Water to ensure the water is clean and people can safely bathe when visiting the beach.

In order to grow our economy, encourage tourists and provide good leisure opportunities it's important that North Down is clean and green. For far too long the people of North Down have had to cope with dirty bathing waters. Enough is enough.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

King John’s Highway Path blocked AGAIN!

The pedestrian gates providing access to the King John's Highway Path on Creighton's Green Road, Holywood were again blocked at the weekend by, I presume, the landowner.


I will continue to support efforts by North Down Borough Council to re-open the path and give people free access to this valuable Right of Way which provides good leisure opportunities plus a safe means to access the Craigantlet Hills by foot.


If you know anything about the history of this Right of Way please contact me so this can be added to the information already obtained which proves that King John's Highway Path is a Right of Way and people should not be impeded from using it.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Suicide - Samaritans launch new campaign

The Samaritans last week launched a new campaign to highlight the issue of suicide in light of the increasing number of young men who are taking their own lives.

I strongly welcome this campaign by The Samaritans highlighting an issue which destroys many lives each year. It is particularly concerning that it seems that an increasing number of Young Men are taking their own lives and I hope this campaign will help reverse the trend.

People take their own lives for many different reasons. In my own experience friends have chosen to end their life because of variety of reasons including personal circumstances and societal attitudes.

I will continue to work as a politician to create a new type of society where people are valued and able to enjoy their life to the full without feeling the need to consider suicide. 

The Samaritans can be contacted via 08457 90 90 90 or jo@samaritans.org