I am profoundly disappointed that Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen has thus far refused to act to save Cairn Wood Forest, an environmental haven and popular amenity spot used by many from across North Down, Ards, East Belfast and beyond. Minister McIlveen is standing idly by despite surge in public support to stop Sale of Cairn Wood Forest with over 2,700 people signing the Petition calling upon the Minister to halt the sale, including, it seems, her own colleague Jim Shannon MP and support from Ards and North Down Borough Council for my motion urging the Minister to act.
With Minister McIlveen unwilling to save Cairn Wood I am determined to explore every avenue to stop Cairn Wood being sold to the highest bidder. I have therefore submitted a Motion giving Ards and North Down Borough Council a second chance to Save Cairn Wood by expressing an interest in acquiring. This follows previous attempt by the Alliance Party in December 2014 calling upon the Council to explore costs and issues associated with acquiring Reservoirs and adjoining lands offered for sale by NI Water.
My motion will be debated at full Council meeting in Bangor Castle next Tuesday 26 January 2016 from 7pm, if Mayor deems issue urgent and permits debate on the night. With real concerns sale could be concluded soon I would urge all Councillors to vote for the motion. With the Minister disinterested and sale plans being pursued apace, unless Council acts this amazing asset could be lost forever.
At the very least the Minister could act and allow Council to pursue these plans without having to worry about sale being closed in the near future. I plead with her to let Council exercise this second chance without worry of being gazumped and watching this valuable asset being lost forever.
With Northern Ireland one of the lowest levels of tree cover across all of Europe we should be expanding our forests not letting NI Water to pursue a short sighted get rich quick plan to sell Northern Ireland’s family silver to top-up government coffers.
Motion wording: “That this Council expresses with immediate effect an interest to Northern Ireland Water in acquiring Cairn Wood Forest (Plot 2 of Ballysallagh Upper Reservoir & Adjoining Lands, Craigantlet, BT23 4TE currently for sale) with request to Northern Ireland Water that opportunity is given to make an offer once valuation, Economic Appraisal and due diligence completed, considered by Council and decision made whether to make an offer. Valuation of the site, completion of an Economic Appraisal and other due diligence to be completed without delay if Northern Ireland Water consents to above.”