Muir urges action to manage edge of town shopping growth

I strongly feel that the Planning authorities should review their policies and procedures to more effectively manage edge of town shopping after uncovering that the Planning Service doesn’t even know the current floor space of Bloomfield Shopping Centre which has ballooned in size since opening in 1992.

I obtained information from Land and Property Services and the Planning Service which details that the rateable area for the complex is 34,862 square metres whilst, according to the Planning Service, the net retail floor space of Bloomfield Shopping Centre was 7,432 square metres when it opened in April 1992. The Planning Service doesn’t know the current net retail floor space to allow easy comparison between now and 1992. 

Muir welcomes progress to provide new Social Housing at Loughview Estate, Holywood

I welcome news that work is continuing to provide up to 55 new Social Housing units at West Green, Loughview Estate, Holywood.

In response to a recent Assembly Question asked by East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle the Minister for Social Development detailed that Clanmill Housing Association expect to be on site during the 2012/13 year. The Minister also stated “the site could potentially deliver up to 55 units that at today’s costs could total up to £6 million”.

With many local people seeking Social Housing in the Holywood area news that new housing could be built in Loughview Estate during 2012/13 is extremely encouraging. Whilst approvals still need to be sought and local people consulted concerning the scheme design provision of up to 55 new Social Housing units on the site previously occupied by the notorious flat complex is good news.

I will continue to liaise with the Department for Social Development, NI Housing Executive and Clanmill Housing to ensure the plan progresses and vision for new Social Housing at West Green, Holywood is realised. The Social Housing waiting list in Holywood is far too long and needs drastically reduced. Provision of new homes is an important first step to tackling this chronic problem.

Muir and Wilson secure Council support to help tackle decline in bee numbers

Holywood Honey available locally from
Skinners Bakery, Holywood £6
North Down Alliance Councillor Anne Wilson and I have been busy bees working to find ways to help tackle the fall in bee numbers. As open honey fanatics we have been battling for bees in light of the potentially disastrous impact any further decline may have on our eco-system.

There was a real buzz at Bangor Town Hall when the Alliance representatives secured support for their proposal that North Down Borough Council investigates ways to increase bee numbers through, for example, provision of bee hives and varying types of plants used in Council Parks.

Whilst some may consider the issue of declining bee numbers to be trivial and without consequence, many realise that without pollinating bees our entire existence threatened. It should not be forgotten that a third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. Albert Einstein realised this when he remarked ‘If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man’

Research recently undertaken reports that the number of bees and bee friendly flowers have been falling together. The reasons for the decline are varied and include the increased use of pesticides, air pollution, existence of parasites, reduction in plant diversity due to the mismanagement of our countryside plus a decline in beekeepers and the more violent weather changes experienced as a result of climate change.

Alderman Mrs Anne Wilson who co-sponsored the motion remarked: “The decline in the number of bees poses a major threat not just to honey production but to the pollination of plants and to food production. The Royal Horticulture Society recommends that the public become beekeepers, provide nest sites for bees and grow flowers that bees like. I believe the Council with its acres of parkland and dozens of flowerbeds can, if properly managed, provide the necessary habitat to encourage the growth of the bee population. For example I personally have planted a range of plants including buddleia lilac lavender and forsythia in my garden. It appears bees particularly like yellow and blue flowers.”

Concluding, Alderman Mrs Wilson remarked:  “Our motion involves no additional cost but requires a report on issues such as types of flowers and scrubs planted, the use of pesticides and possible sites for beehives. We are particularly pleased that our motion was supported by all members and look forward to the officers report as to how we can help reverse this decline in the bee population.”

Motion passed “Council notes with concern the reduction in bee numbers which has occurred in recent years, potential negative impact on our eco-system and requests that officers bring back a report detailing current and potential actions to be taken by the Council without any additional cost to increase bee numbers such as beehives and varying type of plants used in Council Parks.” Decision to approve the motion was ratified at full Council Meeting held end on 28 February 2012.

Muir calls for Bloomfields to stub out smoking problem

I am urging Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor to more rigorously enforce no smoking rules after becoming aware of a new problem whereby shoppers are sometimes forced to battle through clouds of smoke to gain entry to the shopping centre.

I was recently contacted by a constituent concerned about the new set-up at Bloomfields. 
The nearby resident outlined that;
'When you walk through the doors of Bloomfield's or come out you are always greeted by smokers and the cloud of smoke. They literally spark up right by the doors and it's bad enough breathing it in but my son shouldn't have to do that as well or any children in fact. I think there should be a designated area maybe but away from the entrance'
In response, I contacted the Centre and was disappointed to receive an unhelpful response which stated;
'Ensuring that they [smokers] comply with a voluntary code limiting the areas in which they smoke would take a huge amount of goodwill on the part of smokers which I don't think is there and manpower which we can't afford.'

Help shape our Future Planning System at forthcoming Public Meeting

The public are being encouraged to come along to a free event concerning our Town Centre and Residential Planning Systems which will involve high profile speakers and an opportunity for an open discussion. 

Entitled “Planning our Future” the event will be held on Thursday 15 March 2012, 7.30pm at Holywood Methodist Church, Church Road, Holywood.

Guest Speakers will include Anna Lo MLA and Simon Robinson (RPP Architects).

James Orr (Director, Friends of the Earth NI)
will also be present to outline key findings as a result of survey recently undertaken by Friends of the Earth concerning our Planning System.

The speeches will hopefully then enable an open discussion facilitated by Anna Lo in order to let people share their views about our Planning System and what it should look like in the future.

Commenting on the event, North Down Alliance Chairperson Adam Harbinson stated “Whilst organised by the Alliance Party the event is open to all regardless of political opinion. Planning is a key issue of concern for many and we are keen to provide an opportunity for people to come together and discuss this important matter especially in the light of impending reforms."

Concluding, Adam stated "Our future Planning System must be built on strong building blocks, protecting and enhancing the environment for future generations with the views and needs of local people and businesses paramount."

Alliance congratulates Rory McIlroy on being ranked No 1 in the world

Alliance Representatives for Holywood, Stephen Farry MLA, Cllr Andrew Muir and Cllr Larry Thompson have congratulated Rory McIlroy on becoming the No 1 ranked golfer in the world.

North Down Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said: “This is a massive achievement and I imagine I speak for everyone in Holywood and across Northern Ireland when I congratulate Rory McIlroy on becoming world number one.

“People in Holywood are so proud of Rory and this is yet more excellent news about golfers from Northern Ireland.”

Holywood Councillor Andrew Muir said: “This is brilliant news and it will provide another boost to the sport in Northern Ireland. There is massive tourism potential in relation to golf here and Rory’s latest success will undoubtedly help us maximise this potential.”

Holywood Councillor Larry Thompson said: “I am so pleased for Rory and it speaks volumes for his outstanding ability that he has attained world No 1 status at such an early stage in his career. Rory is an outstanding ambassador for Northern Ireland and for the sport, and I believe he can continue to be the top golfer in the world for many, many years come."