Monday, 14 May 2012

Muir concerned Reservoirs Bill could pave the way for sale of Reservoirs

Cllr Muir at Portavo Reservoir
I am urging the public to respond to the Reservoirs Bill consultation currently being undertaken by the Rivers Agency. The proposals seek to improve how Reservoirs are managed in order to reduce the risk of flooding.

I am however concerned that the legislation could pave the way for the sale of many Reservoirs by NI Water and that the environment could be damaged if Reservoirs are drained to meet the new requirements contained within the proposed legislation.

With no legislation currently in place to regulate management of Northern Ireland’s Reservoirs I warmly welcome the consultation being undertaken by the Rivers Agency. Legislation has been in place in England, Scotland and Wales for many years and I am glad we will finally be catching up.
Whilst I welcome the general thrust of the proposals, I have concerns about the potential for Reservoirs to be abandoned or water levels significantly reduced in order to avoid requirements to undertake necessary inspection and repair work as a result of the Reservoirs Bill.

This would have a serious detrimental impact upon the environment and current Reservoir users such as Anglers and Walkers. A more co-ordinated and joined up approach between government departments such as DOE, DARD and DCAL is therefore essential to minimise this potential risk and clarification provided concerning the nature and extent of Grand Aid to be provided.

Back in 2010 I exposed NI Water’s plans to sell Reservoirs across Northern Ireland including six within North Down. The proposed sale of Portavo Reservoir near Groomsport during 2012/13 was then put on hold following a concerted campaign led by myself.

I do however fear that once the Reservoirs Bill is enacted NI Water will have legal cover to start selling many disused Reservoirs confident in the knowledge that any new owner will be obliged to maintain the Reservoir and to minimise flood risk.

Recent news via an Assembly Question posed by Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane implying that Ballysallagh Reservoirs located on the Craigantlet Hills between Bangor and Holywood may be sold during 2013/14 or thereafter only serves to raise fears.

I therefore intend to continue the campaign for NI Water to explore other options other than selling the Reservoirs to the highest bidder. Disused Reservoirs such as Portavo and Ballysallagh are wildlife havens and extremely popular for current users and shouldn’t merely be sold to the highest bidder”.

Consultation document at http://www.dardni.gov.uk/riversagency/index/ra-publications/rivers_agency_publications-consultations/reservoir-safety-policy.htm Responses may be made to Mary McKeown, Reservoir Bill Team, Rivers Agency, Hydebank, 4 Hospital Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, BT8 8JP Email mary.mckeown@dardni.gov.uk by 5.00 pm on Friday, 1June 2012.

AQW 10450/11-15 ref Ballysallagh Reservoir Sale, Mrs Judith Cochrane, Alliance Party

Question:
To ask the Minister for Regional Development whether NI Water plans to dispose of Ballysallagh Upper and Lower Reservoirs, Craigantlet; and if so, to outline the method to be used and the envisaged timeframe for disposal.

Answer:
I have been advised by Northern Ireland Water (NIW) that the Ballysallagh Reservoirs have been declared surplus to requirements and are being considered for disposal.
Disposal of the reservoirs will be carried out in accordance with NIW's disposal strategy which requires properties to be placed on the open market in order to obtain the best price and achieve value for money. However, it is unlikely that NIW will dispose of the reservoirs prior to the 2013/14 financial year.

No comments: