Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Muir welcomes planned Pelican Crossing at Belfast Road, Holywood

Cllr Muir at Belfast Road, Holywood
I have achieved progress in my campaign to get a pelican crossing installed at the bottom of the Belfast Road, Holywood opposite Palace Barracks and the new Filling Station.

I am however calling for the Roads Service to avoid a potential tragedy and fast track installation of the new pelican crossing on the Belfast Road, Holywood near the new Kinnegar Service Station.

A few months ago the new Kinnegar Service Station opened on the Belfast Road, Holywood. This busy shop and petrol station is attracting many pedestrians who often cross the Belfast Road to buy goods from the Spar shop.

Immediately after opening I was made aware of concerns that traffic often travels along the road in excess of the 30mph limit. When I visited the site a few weeks ago I saw cars travelling at sometimes double the speed limit in advance of joining the Bangor to Belfast Dual Carriageway. Children and young people coming from Loughview and Redburn estates, Palace Barracks and Sullivan School are particularly at risk.

I therefore wrote to the Road Service pointing out the traffic dangers and asking for a Pelican Crossing as a matter of priority. The Road Service has written back accepting the need for a crossing but have said that it is likely to be a low priority at this time of cutbacks.  A request for additional signage has also been denied. 

The huge pain and costs of a child being killed or seriously injured at this dangerous part of the road far outweigh other considerations. I will continue to fight until this crossing is put in place.

In the meantime I welcome Police activity to rigorously enforce traffic speed limits on the Belfast Road and would urge all road users to exercise caution and adhere to the limit.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Muir welcomes temporary reprieve for Portavo Reservoir but warns of flood risk

Cllr Muir at Portavo Reservoir
I welcome news that NI Water have agreed to defer the sale of Portavo Reservoir for a year until 2012 at the earliest.

I am however concerned that thousands of homes could be flooded if NI Water proceed with their plans to sell Reservoirs across North Down including Portavo Reservoir near Groomsport.

I learned of the temporary reprieve for Portavo Reservoir from a campaign supporter who has been informed by NI Water that;

"Due to some minor outstanding legal issues which need to be resolved, we have decided to defer placing Portavo Impounding Reservoir on the open market in 2011/12. This may provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss various options surrounding its sale."

I welcome news that NI Water have decided to temporarily halt the proposed sale of Portavo Reservoir. The impact of a collective co-ordinated approach has, I believe, already delivered a result but the long term future of Portavo and other Reservoirs is still uncertain. I am particularly grateful for the support provided by Lady Hermon MP.

Statement from Lady Hermon MP at http://sylviahermon.org/news/2011/02/10/disposal-of-portavo-reservoir-delayed/

Plans still exist to sell Reservoirs in the next few years at Portavo, Ballysallagh (Craigantlet), Conlig and both Church Road and Creighton's Green in Holywood. I am therefore now seeking a meeting with the Water Minister to discuss how the Department for Regional Development and NI Water intend to proceed. It is imperative that government takes the lead and ends the uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the reservoirs.

I recently launched a number of initiatives to save our reservoirs including a petition at http://www.andrewmuir.net/ and a plan to deluge the Minister with letters of objection following a well attended Public Meeting convened by me and Chaired by Alliance representative Adam Harbinson, which attracted over one hundred people including North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, MLAs and Councillors.

News that NI Water intend to delay the sale of Portavo Reservoir coincides with shocking development that no powers are in place to regulate the safety of private reservoirs.

North Down Alliance MLA Dr Stephen Farry recently found this out after asking the Agriculture Minister to outline her responsibilities in relation to regulation of Private Reservoirs.

I am shocked that NI Water were considering sale of reservoirs such as Portavo when no appropriate legislation is in place to ensure future owners maintain the reservoirs in an appropriate manner to ensure nearby homes aren't flooded in the event of failure.

A meeting will be held in the Groomsport area soon to gather together people who want to assist Andrew and I to stop the sale of Portavo and other Reservoirs.

Anyone interested in coming along and helping in the Campaign to Save our Reservoirs are most welcome. Please contact me via 07813 945411 or email mail@andrewmuir.net

Every little helps, from getting people to sign the Save our Reservoirs petition at http://www.andrewmuir.net/ to lobbying the Minister and MLAs together we can fight NI Water's plans to sell Portavo and other Reservoirs.


Statement from NI Water;

Portavo Impounding Reservoir has been taken out of operational service and is currently in the process of being declared surplus to requirements.


In identifying and declaring land suitable for disposal, we must ensure that any disposal will not have an adverse impact on the current or future provision of water and wastewater services, which this is the case with Portavo Impounding Reservoir.


The general principle that public bodies limit their holdings of any land and buildings to the minimum required for their present and clearly foreseen responsibilities applies to Northern Ireland Water.

Due to some minor outstanding legal issues which need to be resolved, we have decided to defer placing Portavo Impounding Reservoir on the open market in 2011/12. This may provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss various options surrounding its sale.

Should this sale proceed, we are obliged to obtain the best price and value for money and this will, almost certainly, require placing the site on the open market. Once any sale takes place, management of this site will be the responsibility of the new owner.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

North Down Cyclists celebrate Valentines Day and call for action

With Paul Smith, Co-owner of Bikeworks
Cyclists from across North Down met up in Bangor on Saturday 12 February 2011 to continue their life long love affair with cycling. Over twenty people used pedal power to travel to Bangor Bus and Rail Station and then embarked upon a mass cycle around Bangor as part of Friends of the Earth Valentine’s Weekend Love your Bike event.

The mass cycle ended at Bikeworks Balloo for the launch of the North Down Cycling Manifesto. Organised by Friends of the Earth North Down & Ards group and supported by Sustrans, the event attracted a lot of attention from Saturday shoppers and motorists alike.

With Lorna Hamilton, Friends of the Earth
I attended and helped organise the event as a Friends of the Earth activist and Sustrans Cycling Ranger. It was great to see so many cyclists on Saturday determined to put the wheels in motion towards a Bicycle friendly Borough. Young and old, male and female, everyone was firmly committed to ensuring North Down becomes a place where more and more people can safely Love their Bike as the quick, cheap, convenient, healthy and environmentally friendly way to get from A to B.

During our ride we used the green advance stop lines on many occasions. These boxes have recently appeared across Bangor and are designed to give cyclists a head start at traffic lights rather than having to compete with other vehicles. They are an important safety measure and shouldn’t be entered by motorists until the traffic lights turn green.

On a mini bicycle
When we arrived at Bikeworks we launched our eight point Cycling Manifesto for North Down.  Contained within the Manifesto are simple measures which government can implement to make North Down a Bicycle friendly Borough. Proposed actions include Upgrade of the final section of the North Down Coastal Path linking North Down to the National Cycle Network, Titanic Quarter and Belfast City Centre and relaxation of No Cycling Bylaws.

People were enthused about the prospects of a Borough which better serves the needs of cyclists and agreed to take forward each of the points with future mass cycle rides planned to put Cycling higher up the Agenda of decision makers.

Friends of the Earth, North Down Cycling Manifesto

1.Upgrade of the final section of the North Down Coastal Path linking North Down to the National Cycle Network, Titanic Quarter and Belfast City Centre

2.Creation and signposting of a North Down Cycling Network incorporating Roads, North Down Coastal Path, Ulster Way, Parks, Rights of Way plus Bus and Rail services benefits both walkers and cyclists alike.

3.Provision of Tourist Cycle Hire scheme at Tower House, Bangor

4. Education and awareness raising programme directed at the general public promoting the benefits associated with cycling

5.Safer cycling in North Down through improved awareness of key issues by all road users including motorists and cyclists

6.Relaxing of No Cycling Bylaws

7.Increased and improved secure cycle parking facilities in Bangor and Holywood Town Centre

8.Cycle Path markings along A2 Dual Carriageway from Groomsport to Belfast

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Campaigners want you to fall in love with cycling

North Down residents are invited to fall in love with cycling this Valentine’s weekend, by joining campaigners on a bike ride around Bangor town centre on Saturday (12 February).

The event, called “Love Your Bike,” is part of North Down and Ards Friends of the Earth’s campaign for better cycling provision in the borough. 

Cyclists will gather at Bangor Translink station at 10.30am, and proceed to cycle round the town centre, before arriving at Bikeworks Cycle Shop, 1 Balloo Link, for the launch of the campaign’s Cycling Manifesto for North Down.

Speaking on behalf of Friends of the Earth, Andrew Muir said:

“Taking up regular cycling is like embarking on a life-long love affair.  As well as being a quick and convenient way to get around town, getting on your bike has many health benefits, both physical and psychological.

“North Down suffers from serious traffic problems, lack of access for those without a car, and widespread health issues.  Our manifesto proposes simple actions to be undertaken by both the Council and the Department for Regional Development, which would make cycling throughout the area easier, safer, and more enjoyable.”

Mr Muir went on to say:

“If your bike has been abandoned in your garage all winter, then Valentine’s weekend is the perfect time to renew your commitment to cycling, by joining us at Bangor train station.”

Tea and coffee will be served at the manifesto launch at Bikeworks.

For more information, call Andrew Muir on  07813 945411 or email mail@andrewmuir.net.

When:             10.30a.m., Saturday 12 February 2011


Where:            Bangor bus and railway station, Bangor town centre, and finally the Bikeworks Cycle Shop on Balloo Link

What:              Campaigners supporting North Down and Ards Friends of the Earth’s cycling campaign will take part in a bike-ride demonstration around Bangor town centre, in order to highlight the need for better provision for cycling in North Down, and to launch a Cycling Manifesto for the area.  At one point along the journey, the group will stop to pose for photographs at a cycle advance stop line, to highlight the need for more of this type of road marking throughout the borough.
                         
Why:               North Down and Ards Friends of the Earth has identified traffic congestion and a lack of provision for active transport as a serious issue in the area.  The group has suggested a number of projects and initiatives which could boost the use of bicycles, such as: the upgrade of the coastal path to permit cycling along the entirety of the route; a cycle path to be added to Bangor ring road; and better cycle parking at railway stations, shopping malls and supermarkets, and town centres. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Muir delivers sweet smell of success with progress on Kinnegar sewage issue

Cllr Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I have delivered real progress to end the Kinnegar sewage pollution problem with a £3million solution now in the pipeline as a result of my dogged determination to end the problem which has effected Holywood for many years. I praise NI Water for their work to date but am now calling upon them to implement the solution without delay.

I have been working relentlessly to end the problem and last year secured investment in the region of £100,000 to identify the source of the problem. It is expected that the required solution will cost up to £3million.


I recently met with senior officials from NI Water who were able to tell me that on the basis of an interim report a solution is in sight which will involve sewage overflowing into a large tank rather than into the scenic Kinnegar lagoons. It would then be discharged into Belfast Lough in a controlled manner in full compliance with relevant environmental standards. 


I understand that the proposed solution will be given the green light once the final report is received in the next few weeks and approval is given from relevant key people in NI Water. As soon as approval is given planning and implementation of the solution will take place. It is forecast that planning could take 6-8months whilst implementation could also take the same amount of time. 


Whilst I am disappointed that it may take so long to implement a solution I commend NI Water for the work undertaken to date which included an extensive survey involving advanced computer modelling. NI Water seem keen to plug the problem and also intend to investigate a way to repair the damage done to the Lagoons to ensure they are returned to their sewage free state.


I do however call upon NI Water to explore all avenues possible to ensure the sewage smell and pollution is banished for good. It is unacceptable that we will have to endure another smelly summer with wildlife and the environment generally at continued risk as a result of this pollution. People working and living nearby should no longer have to put up with such a pong with some nearby workers recently sick as a result of the smell.


Whilst NI Water are now regularly cleaning pipes in the area to stop the build up of debris this will merely reduce the problem not eliminate it. I am delighted to be able to report that a solution is in the pipeline as a result of my efforts but want to see the problem plugged as quick as possible.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Many of us struggle, but there is always support

The following letter from me appeared in the Belfast Telegraph today (Friday 4 February 2011);

Last Friday a person died on the A2 Bangor-to-Belfast Road after falling from the Holywood Exchange flyover.


It was reported by the media that the person took their own life and was Karen Cromie, a talented athlete who participated in the 2008 Beijing ParalympicsGames and was in training for the 2012 London Paralympic Games. 


While I didn't know Karen personally, I wish to take this opportunity, as a local councillor, to pass my condolences to Karen's family and friends during this difficult period.


Karen's death should serve as a clear reminder that one-in-five people in Northern Ireland will experience problems that affect their mental health.


As someone who has previously experienced depression and lost friends due to suicide, I urge anyone who feels suicidal to talk.


It's okay to feel down, but don't bottle things up.


Talk to someone you can trust, or if you feel that you can't talk to anyone you know, or would prefer to talk to someone anonymously, contact Lifeline on (0808) 808 8000. You can also contact the Samaritans on (08457) 909090 or e-mail
jo@samaritans.org

You are not alone. People are there for you, waiting to talk and help you overcome your problems.

Councillor Andrew Muir (Alliance)

North Down Borough Council

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Muir welcomes demolition of Holywood’s ugliest building

Cllr Muir at demolished Moffett's
I warmly welcome the demolition old Moffett’s building on Downshire Road, Holywood which many people regarded as Holywood’s ugliest building. The building was bulldozed at the weekend and is now a pile of rubble.

Moffets’ Building has long been a blot on the landscape in Holywood, gradually falling into disrepair until its current awful state. A number of people raised the state of the building with me and directly to Council officers. 


In response North Down Borough Council took strong action and served a notice against the owner, requiring him to demolish or re-instate the property. It seems that rather can carrying out significant works which would have included removal of vegetation from the building, re-instating the roof, repairing or replacing brickwork, repairing window sills and repairing or replacing any damaged window openings and doors the owner opted for demolition.



Old Moffett's Building, picture from Google Streetview
Planning Permission was obtained in 2007 for demolition of existing building and construction of new ground floor dental manufacturing and first and second floor office building, at 2-8 Downshire Road / 55 Church View, Holywood. 

The application was approved on 17/7/07. The approval is valid for five years and expires on 17/7/12. 


My next focus will be to ascertain when building work will commence in order to ensure we are not left with a empty plot of land for years.