Alliance Councillors urge investment in Holywood schools

Cllr Muir meeting Priory Integrated College
Student Council 15 December 2010
My Council colleague Larry Thompson and I have called upon the Department of Education to fund the new school building projects within Holywood. We have made the call following news that monies have become free as a result of recent developments such as recent development regarding the A5 road upgrade and news that the Education Minister has found an extra £40m.

Cllr Thompson stated: “Whilst some new school build projects are not ready to proceed, the new schools initiative in Holywood has received all the necessary approvals and just needs the commitment and cash to proceed.  Priory Integrated College urgently needs a new building to replace their current crumbling structure.

Cyclists celebrate successful Yuletide Mince Pie Cycle Ride

Cyclists from across North Down enjoyed a leisurely cycle ride from Bangor to Holywood and then the RSPB Bird Reserve at Airport Road, Belfast as part of the Bicycle friendly Borough campaign on Sunday 20 November with campaigners hailing the event as an overwhelming success. 

Supported by Sustrans and Friends of the Earth the ride was designed to raise awareness of the need to fully upgrade the North Down Coastal Path to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

Commenting on the event, Mary Lappin from the Bicycle friendly Borough campaign remarked “Over sixty people participated in our Yuletide Seaside Birdhide Mince Pie Bikeride cycling along the North Down Coastal Path from McKee Clock to Holywood and then the Bird Reserve. We were particularly grateful for the MLAs and Councillors who joined us including John Barry and Andrew Muir plus the Mayor of North Down Cllr James McKerrow who gave his best wishes before we set off. 

The ride successfully helped us to highlight the need to upgrade the remaining sections of the Coastal Path whilst also demonstrating the value of investment made by North Down Borough Council and other agencies.”

Continuing, Mary stated “Cyclists found the newly upgraded section at Rockport very useful and were able to make their way to Airport Road via the newly opened gate facilitating cyclists and pedestrians between Kinnegar and the Harbour Estate. 

More work is however required to create a Greenway between Bangor and Belfast allowing pedestrians and cyclists alike to make their journey on a safe traffic free route. We therefore intend to request a meeting with Senior Officers at North Down Borough Council to find out more about their plans to upgrade the remaining sections”.

I greatly enjoyed the Mulled Wine and Mince Pies kindly provided on arrival at the Bird Hide by Bikeworks Cycle Shop, Bangor and will continue to support this important campaign in the future. We urgently need to upgrade our cycling infrastructure to make it easier and safer for cyclists to travel from A to B.

Anyone interested in supporting the Bicycle friendly Borough campaign and participating in future rides should join our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/bicyclefriendlyborough

Muir comments on Redburn Primary School closure decision delay

I welcome the decision by SEELB to defer their decision to issue proposals to close Redburn Primary School.

I understand South Eastern Education and Library Board Commissioners met last week to consider whether to issue proposals in the form of a Development Plan to close the school but decided to defer any decision until their next meeting. I welcome news that they are considering all relevant issues and hope they will make the right decision and will allow Redburn to remain open.

Any decision to close the school would be knee jerk in advance of the wide ranging review now initiated by the Education Minister and the long awaited new Schools initiative in Holywood which would involve new premises for Priory Integrated College, Holywood Nursery plus Redburn and Holywood Primary Schools.

Muir urges action to protect War Memorials

© Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse
under thisCreative Commons Licence
I have called upon North Down Borough Council to take appropriate actions to protect war memorials across the Borough following a reports of thefts in other parts of the UK.

Following recent reports from other parts of the UK that metal plaques on war memorials have been stolen to be sold, I have requested that Council officers bring back a report on all possible steps which can be taken to safeguard our war memorials. 

Plaques bearing the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice during past wars need to be securely marked so they can be easily traced if stolen, and photographed to allow replicas to be reproduced without delay.

I find it disgusting and abhorrent that anyone would even consider doing something like this. I am appalled at the lack of respect displayed by some people for those who lost their lives, and I cannot understand how some individuals do not appreciation that the freedom they enjoy today is because of the sacrifices made by those named on the plaques. 

Hopefully North Down will not be visited by such criminals but if we are, we must be prepared.

Muir condemns plans to close Holywood Police station

Holywood Police Station

I condemn outright plans to close Holywood Police Station and urge the Chief Constable to remove Holywood from the list of stations which will be axed. 

It is understood that a Policing Board subcommittee was presented with a list of 35 stations ear marked for closure on at the end of last week by the Police Service of NI and included on this list was Holywood Police Station.

Holywood Police Station is an important part of our community providing a base for local police officers. With the recent spike in burglaries I am astounded that the Police are considering removing this local station. 

Cyclists plan Mince Pie Cycle Ride to Belfast Lough Bird Reserve

North Down Cyclists hope to put the wheels in motion towards an improved Coastal Path later this month by embarking upon a Cycle Ride from Bangor and Holywood to the Belfast Lough Bird Reserve at Airport Road, Belfast. Participants will be able to enjoy free coffee and mince pies upon arrival courtesy of Bikeworks Cycle Shop.

Organised by the Bicycle friendly Borough campaign and supported by Sustrans and Friends of the Earth the cycle ride will depart McKee Clock, Bangor at 10am and Café Nero, Holywood at noon on Sunday 20 November 2011 arriving at the Bird Reserve at approximately 12.30pm.

Muir welcomes pavement gritting deal

Cllr Muir in Holywood last year
during heavy snow and ice
Last year The County Down Spectator rightly described efforts by the Council and Roads Service to grit Town Centre pavements as ‘too little too late’. Town Centre pavements were left covered in snow and ice in a treacherous state for far too long whilst the Council and Roads Service bickered. 

I am however glad that the Council and Roads Service have signed an agreement concerning gritting and removal of ice from Town Centre pavements after I continuously raised the issue throughout 2011. 

The new agreement will hopefully provide a framework for action. Whilst it will not be possible to grit every pavement after every sprinkling of snow it provides a basis for a more co-ordinated approach focused on key areas during extreme and prolonged cold weather when snow and ice make Town Centre’s inaccessible. 

I will closely monitor implementation to ensure lessons are learnt from 2010 and ratepayers receive a better response from government when temperatures fall and snow turns to ice.

Muir welcomes Holywood success at Best Kept Town awards

I am delighted after Holywood was awarded Runner Up status in the Medium Town Category at the Northern Ireland Best Kept Town 2011 Awards.

Whilst I am naturally disappointed Holywood didn't win this year achieving Runner Up status against stiff competition is an amazing achievement. I warmly congratulate and thank everyone involved in keeping Holywood tidy and attractive.

Great progress has been achieved during the last year with a number of eye sores gone, areas spruced up, graffiti removed and the scourge of litter tackled on an on-going basis. The challenge ahead is to continue this work and focus on the areas where judges felt improvement was required in order to ensure we win the award next year.

I look forward to working with everyone over the forthcoming months to deliver a tidy town which attracts even more people to live, work or visit. During these tough economic times it's especially important we have a town which attracts investors.

Muir working to stop Redburn Primary School closure

People across Holywood recently received news that the South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) are contemplating closing Redburn Primary School from 31 August 2012. I am shocked that the Board are even considering closure after the Education Minister recently reaffirmed commitments to facilitate the new school building project in Holywood when resources allow. This scheme would involve new premises for Holywood Nursery, Holywood Primary, Priory Integrated College and Redburn Primary with Redburn and Holywood Primary Schools merging together on one new site.

Whilst I am totally opposed the proposed closure I am keen to ensure that the consultation isn’t merely a rubber stamping exercise. I have therefore contacted the Children’s Commissioner requesting that legal action is taken to halt the closure before the Education Minister completes his overarching review concerning the sustainability of all schools across Northern Ireland.

Thompson welcomes progress to save Stewart's Place, Holywood

Holywood Alliance Councillor Larry Thompson has welcomed news that a letter of offer has been issued by the NI Environment Agency for Grant Aid towards essential repairs and redecoration of 1 Stewart’s Place, Holywood with work apparently to begin on site shortly. 1 Stewart’s Place was built in 1840 and is a listed building in the Town Centre on a street named after Holywood’s first Post Master.

Commenting on the development, Cllr Thompson stated “Over the last few years 1 Stewart’s Place has unfortunately fell into disrepair and is now extremely dilapidated. Emergency repairs effected a few months ago were merely cosmetic leaving the building in a serious state and structural damage now evident.

Whilst I am disappointed that the building has been allowed to deteriorate so badly news that funding has been awarded and work will soon commence to bring the building up to a basic standard is to be welcomed. I would like to pay tribute to the Holywood Conservation Group who have worked tirelessly to bring these matters to the attention of all concerned and to achieve a successful result".

Concluding, Cllr Thompson remarked “Whilst previous attempts by NIEA to force the site owner to repair the building have failed Grant Aid and news that the building is on the market for sale will hopefully incentivise the owner to carry out the necessary work. Facing 1 Stewart’s Place is its sister building 3 Stewart’s Pace which was restored in 1993 by Hearth Housing Association. This restored building provides a clear example of how 1 Stewart’s Place could look if fully restored. I will continue to lobby and support Holywood Conservation Group and UAHS as they campaign for action to restore this historic building which acts as a gateway into Holywood”.

Stewart's Place, Holywood is thought to have been built about 1840 by William Lowry, nos. 1 and 3 Stewart's Place are named after the first post-master of Holywood, Hugh Stewart. Forming a pair of three-storey stucco houses with rounded corners, they were listed in the mid-1970s, and are located within the recently designated Holywood Conservation Area. No.3 was restored by Hearth Revolving Fund in 1993, but, its neighbour, no.1, is currently in a poor state of repair. HB Ref No: HB23/20/020 A 

More info at http://freespace.virgin.net/hearth.nireland/StewartsPl.html Offers are invited in the region of £175,000 by BTW Shiells http://www.btwshiells.co.uk/Site/Property.aspx?x=1141