Portavo Reservoir update

Mayor Muir at Portavo Reservoir before it was drained
I am extremely concerned about the impact of the works currently being undertaken at Portavo Reservoir and potential damage to the Environment plus the wider Eco-System as a result of the drainage of this beautiful Reservoir.

Immediately after I became aware that the Reservoir was being drained I contacted NI Water with my concerns and have continued to request a full explanation.

I welcome the recent decision by North Down Borough Council to call for urgent action to be taken and have followed up matter by requesting a prompt meeting with the Minister for Regional Development. No response has unfortunately been received to this meeting request.

As someone who was closely involved in the Save Portavo campaign a few years ago and successfully managed to get sales plans postponed I am acutely aware of the concerns held and have regularly lobbied relevant government bodies.

I previously arranged a joint meeting between Minister Kennedy and North Down and Ards Mayors on Wednesday 4 September 2013 which helped clarify the Reservoirs future.

I intend to seek further assurances when I again meet with the Minister and will invite the Mayor of Ards to join me. Only by working together we can help secure a better future for Portavo.

Decision by NI Water to attend a special meeting of the joint North Down and Ards Portavo Working Group on Friday 25 April 2014 at 11am at Bangor Castle Town Hall to address the many queries and concerns that exist following decision to drain the Reservoir is to be welcomed but the decision to exclude members of the public does not help to build trust and confidence. I am therefore seeking clarification on what basis this decision has been made and unless commercial, legal or other matters are due to be considered I am inclined to propose that members of the public are allowed into the Public Gallery to hear the discussion.

Establishment of a Friends of Portavo group is to be welcomed and has my full support. An inclusive, community based support and lobbying group is essential to help co-ordinate campaign to save Portavo from ongoing environmental damage and potential sale.

Whilst the absence of any legislation regulating upkeep and maintenance of Reservoirs may inhibit NI Water from selling Portavo in the short term the Reservoirs Bill currently being debated at the NI Assembly has the potential to give NI Water the necessary vehicle to sell Portavo in the knowledge that the Act will place responsibility on upkeep and maintenance with any new owner rather than leaving this in limbo following any Reservoir sale. Imagine the outcry that would arise if NI Water sold a Reservoir without the Reservoirs Act and a flooding incident occurred because the new owner failed to properly maintain the facility! With the Reservoirs Bill proceeding apace it this therefore crucial that active consideration is given to how we can ensure Portavo is not simply sold the highest bidder.

NI Water have previously offered to transfer Portavo Reservoir to relevant local Councils for a nominal fee. With Portavo covering both North Down and Ards Council areas the forthcoming Councils merger provides us with an opportunity to safeguard this environmental haven for future generations in partnership perhaps with established countryside and wildlife groups. The terms of the transfer plus the ongoing maintenance costs and any infrastructure improvements must however be clarified before any decision is made. I intend to request this information and will not relent in my determination to save Portavo Reservoir.