Muir welcomes safety measures at North Down beaches

I welcome news that the risk of drowning at North Down’s most popular beaches has been assessed and action is being taken to enable people to swim more safely.

I was recently contacted by constituents concerned about the risk of drowning at Crawfordsburn and Helen’s Bay beaches. The lack of signage and life saving aids at these beaches has been a justifable cause for concern with many people entering the water for a swim when we are lucky enough to experience warm weather.

In response to these concerns I contacted Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane who kindly tabled an Assembly Question to the Environment Minister. Minister Attwood’s response details that the RNLI have assessed the risk of drowning at Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn Beaches and recommended a series of actions to be implemented such as improved signage and life saving equipment at the mouth of the Crawford’s Burn River.

I welcome this commitment to improve swimming safety at these popular beaches and will explore whether similar actions can be taken at other beaches in North Down under the remit of North Down Borough Council. Government does however require the co-operation of the public to ensure swimming safety. Swimmers should always follow the Water Safety Code spotting the dangers, taking safety advice, going together and onlookers ringing 999 when they spot someone in difficulty. Further advice can be sought from the RNLI and ROSPA and should be considered carefully before entering the water.

Assembly Written Question and response below: AQW 11279/11-15, Mrs Judith Cochrane, Alliance Party, East Belfast, Tabled Date: 03/05/2012, Answered On Date: 18/06/2012, Priority Written: No

Question: To ask the Minister of the Environment what life saving equipment is in place at Helen's Bay and Crawfordsburn Beaches to reduce the risk of drowning.

Answer: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), in November 2011, at the request of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, assessed the risk of drowning at both Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn beaches. The assessments indicated that the risks at both beaches are low. The key control measures suggested by the RNLI to make the beaches safer included signage to provide information to visitors before they arrive at the beaches and Public Rescue Equipment for the river mouth of the Crawford’s Burn, which shelves steeply. These measures are being procured and are expected to be in place by the end of May 2012. RNLI has advised that life rings and throw bags have been found to be ineffective for gently-shelving beaches such as Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn