|Councillor Muir at Cairn Wood Forest|
In comes in the wake of a campaign run to save the area from sale. A public petition set up by myself, which was handed to the Minister last week, now has almost 3,000 signatures to date.
Earlier today, Alliance colleague Chris Lyttle MLA and I met Minister McIlveen, again impressing the importance of a prompt intervention. I am delighted that a few hours later the sale has been halted.
At the beginning of this campaign, those who wanted to prevent the sale of Cairn Wood Forest and the surrounding land said we would not just stand by and allow it to take place. I am delighted the Minister has finally listened, taken on-board the views of the thousands of people who signed the petition and made this decision, despite her initially informing us she could do nothing about the issue.
Whilst disappointed it took such a vigorous campaign, nearly 3,000 signatures for my petition and sustained lobbying from many people, I am glad to see people power deliver, albeit at the eleventh hour just before I was about to bring a motion to Ards and North Down Borough Council seeking support for Councillors to intervene and stop the sale
The campaign is however not over. We need the option of a sale to the highest bidder to be permanently removed, full details on proposed transfer to Forest Service and the area kept in its natural tranquil state.
Information provided today by the Forest Service stating "The land already makes a considerable contribution to public recreation in the area, and the business case will need to establish the role of recreational partner providers in line with the well established partnership approach adopted elsewhere with local councils” needs further clarification without delay in order to avoid any concerns that the tranquil nature of the site may be lost.
Press Release received from Department for Regional Development Press Office below for information
Ballysallagh Reservoir sale put on hold - McIlveen
Regional Development Minister, Michelle McIlveen has announced that the sale of the Ballysallagh Upper reservoir has been put on hold.
The reservoir is one of a number of sites which NI Water intends to dispose of because it is no longer in use.
Michelle McIlveen said: “I am aware of the local interest in the disposal of the Ballysallagh Upper reservoir and the adjacent land at Cairn Wood. It is a popular recreational site for local people and I have always been keen to ensure that the public continues to have access once the sale was completed.
“NI Water did seek expressions of interest from the public sector, including the local Council, in relation to the sale, however, none were received.
"I am very pleased to say that the Forest Service has now expressed a strong interest to NI Water in purchasing this site, therefore in line with guidance on the disposal of assets, sale on the open market will no longer be pursued while this interest is explored.
“I am hopeful that this development will enable the reservoir and lands to remain within public ownership and ensure that the general public will continue to have access to the woodland.”
A spokesman for Forest Service said: “Forest Service, which has been managing trees on the NIW land under management arrangements since 1978, has written to NIW confirming its interest in a potential transfer of ownership of the land to DARD. Forest Service is required to complete a business case that supports a transfer, and to engage the necessary processes that govern any asset transfer between departments.
"The land already makes a considerable contribution to public recreation in the area, and the business case will need to establish the role of recreational partner providers in line with the well established partnership approach adopted elsewhere with local councils.”