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Portavo Reservoir access restrictions need reviewed

I recently became aware that the main gates into Portavo Reservoir have been secured by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. After contacting the Department I have been informed that this step has been taken to restrict access to DCAL Disabled Permit and Licence holders.

DCAL advise that "keys are allocated, on a first come first served basis, to anglers in receipt of a Concessionary Disabled Licence and Permit. You must state the following in applying for a key: Name, Address, Telephone contact number, Disabled Licence Number and Permit Number Applications for a key can be made to the Department  by post, by e-mail to dcalangling@dcalni.gov.uk or by telephoning 101"


I have asked that DCAL review their decision and they have agreed stating;


In recent years the Department has invested in excess of £60,000 to provide new facilities at Portavoe. This included the building of a special facility at Warren Road for disabled anglers with its own car park. The car park is primarily provided for disabled anglers but until recently members of the general public also had access. This generated complaints from anglers, many of them disabled. The complaints mainly relate to rubbish in the car park and surrounding area, dog fouling and misuse of the car park at night and weekends by non anglers. The Department considered these issues and decided to restrict access to the car park to disabled anglers only, which was the original intention in providing a car park. The Department will be undertaking a review of the policy and procedures on the issue of car park keys to disabled anglers and the implications on other anglers and this will involve the Department consulting with stakeholders.

I will keep readers up to date on the situation which my colleague Adam Harbinson is closely involved with. Commenting on the situation, Adam stated;
While the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) assure us that Portavoe Reservoir is open to the public, a padlocked barrier now restricts public access. 
When asked why there is a locked barrier at Portavoe the official DCAL response is, ‘A decision was made by the Management of Fisheries to lock the barrier from April 1st to ensure access to Portavoe Reservoir for disabled fishermen who have been issued with a key.’
The obvious questions are; how can locking a barrier ensure access for disabled fishermen? How many disabled fishermen are there? And if the purpose is to ensure car parking spaces for disabled fishermen, would not appropriate signage be as effective, less restrictive and less confusing? 
It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that the hidden agenda is to discourage the public from availing of this beautiful resource. 
Why? Because it is a matter of public record that there is growing opposition to the sale of Portavoe. However, since the locked barrier will serve to restrict public access, the impression could be created that there is little public appetite for visiting the reservoir. It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that there will be no public outcry if and when it were to be transferred to private ownership.
I call on DCAL to unlock the barrier without delay. 
I am committed to do all in my power not only to keep Portavoe in public ownership, but to encourage the public to make full use of it for as long as is practicable.