Reservoirs Bill could see local sites sold to highest bidder

The future of local reservoirs is at risk after new legislation has made is much easier for NI Water to sell them to the highest bidder.

I am deeply concerned around the environmental impact of the Reservoirs Bill, after the legislation passed through the Assembly last week.

I’m deeply concerned about the implications of this bill and the removal of any responsibility from NI Water concerning future ownership and management of their 22 redundant reservoirs – which they have been keen to dispose of for years.

Once the Reservoirs Bill becomes law public and private Reservoir owners will be required to maintain Reservoirs to a specified standard. No regulations presently exist to ensure Reservoirs are properly maintained thereby increasing risk of flood and environmental damage in the event of a dam breaking or other malfunction.

Since becoming a Councillor in 2010 I have campaigned relentlessly to safeguard the future for NI Water’s many redundant reservoirs which provide a home to range of wildlife plus local organisations such as angling clubs.

Locally, in North Down, I have campaigned to save Portavoe Reservoirs in Groomsport, Creightons Green Lower, Holywood, Ballysallagh Upper & Lower (Craigantlet), Conlig Upper & Lower (Bangor) and Church Road, Holywood.

The new Ards and North Down Borough Council only expressed an interest in relation to Portavoe with all others to be offered to other public bodies this Summer before being placed on the market for sale to the highest bidder. Concerns have now been raised as a result of the Council’s decision that two Reservoirs in Conlig could be snapped up for housing development following previous discussions concerning land zoning during the development of BMAP.

Instead of selling the Reservoirs once the Reservoirs Bill becomes law I urge NI Water to explore different ways for future ownership and management involving local communities in order to ensure the vast economic, social, environmental and health benefits are not lost forever.