Monday, 7 December 2015

Campaign steps up to save Cairn Wood Forest

I've stepped up the campaign to save North Down's Cairn Wood Forest, after it was discovered NI Water had placed the popular environmental asset up for sale along with Ballysallagh Upper Reservoir.
I have submitted a motion for debate at Ards and North Down Borough Council next Thursday 17 December 2015, requesting the Council urgently writes to the Minister for Regional Development requesting Cairn Wood is removed from the sale and launched an online petition, giving local people a forum to express their opposition to the move.
It is extremely disappointing that despite the growing public outrage in response to NI Water's plans to sell Cairn Wood, nothing has changed and North Down still risks losing part of a popular environmental asset.
It is essential that Cairn Wood is removed from the sale and left within public hands, open for public use on the same basis as enjoyed by many over previous decades.
I have also started a Petition giving local people a forum to express their opposition to this disgraceful move at https://www.change.org/p/minister-for-regional-development-minister-for-regional-development-michelle-mcilveen-mla-save-cairn-wood-forest 
My colleagues at the NI Assembly have also tabled questions for answer and seeking that bring Ministers to account including both the Minister for Regional Development, who oversees NI Water, and Minister for Agriculture, who oversees the Forestry Service.
With a previous Freedom of Information request detailing that NI Water may not have the right to sell Cairn Wood Forest due to 150 year lease signed by previous owners Bangor Borough Council in 1964, I am now also seeking legal opinion whether NI Water have the right to proceed with their shameful plan to sell the Forest which must be halted without delay.
Email correspondence previously obtained clearly indicates that the sale of Cairn Wood would be inhibited due to the lease with the strategy in 2010 : 'End result if it all works out - The land that is forested stays with Forestry no expense to NI Water and no liability, You get rid of at least one of the reservoirs, NI Water takes in some money.

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