Muir welcomes plans for Service of Thanksgiving for Emergency Services

I warmly welcome the decision by a recent Council Committee to organise an Annual Multi Denominational Service of Thanksgiving for the Emergency Services and First Responders after he first proposed such an event in June 2018. The Committee decision was unanimous and ratified by Full Council at the end of March 2019.

I am delighted to see this initiative being progressed after first proposing such an Annual Service last year based upon the example set by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council who were involved in organising a Service in conjunction with local Churches for members of the Emergency Services and First Responders. The Service included an opportunity for those in attendance to learn about work undertaken by such organisations and involved a collection for NI Air Ambulance which is based within their Council area.

Those working in the Emergency Services and First Responders do a fantastic job across our Borough as everyday heroes, there when we need them most and very often going well beyond the call of duty to help others hence my proposal to recognise their courageous service in an inclusive Multi Denominational manner for those who choose to attend.

Representatives of both the Ards and Bangor Clergy Groups are supportive of and willing to be involved in such a service with Emergency Services and First Responder Groups expressing enthusiasm for the service and a willingness to be actively involved with the invitation to attend and participate in the Service to be circulated more widely to all emergency responder groups, including the NI Coastguard, NI Air Ambulance and other charitable and voluntary organisations, e.g. RNLI. The first service will be held on the afternoon of either Sunday, 1 September or Sunday, 8 September 2019 and held outdoors (to increase inclusivity), with the location rotating year on year between Bangor and Newtownards.

I would like to thank Council officers for their hard work in progressing this initiative and look forward to attending the inaugural event in September providing an opportunity to show our appreciation and support for the extraordinary commitment, service, courage and professionalism of our Emergency Services and First Responders.

Muir welcomes Council moves to address impact of new Road Closure legislation

I have welcomed the decision reached at the Council’s Environment Committee on 6 March 2019 to set aside funds to help local community and voluntary groups to overcome the effects of new and much criticised Road Closure legislation. The decision is subject to ratification by full Council.

Pushed through just as the Northern Ireland Assembly was collapsing, the new Special Events on Roads legislation is continuing to have a detrimental impact upon community and voluntary groups bringing ridiculous levels of bureaucracy and significant fees just as we are trying to encourage active lifestyles and community participation.

With Groomsport 10K / Half Marathon now cancelled, Ards Half Marathon not held in 2018 and Holywood May Day Festivities previously endangered as a result of this legislation I am keen to find a much more satisfactory situation whilst recognising limited Council powers in the absence of the NI Executive to repeal this bad law. I therefore tabled a Motion in June last year on the issue and am delighted to see Council officers now present a number of proposals which will help mitigate impact of the legislation.

A much improved situation is now on the horizon with the £100 cost of advertising events proposed by community/voluntary groups now to be waived and funds set aside from the Recycling Community Investment Fund to cover some of the costs incurred. I would like to thank Council officers for the work undertaken and will keep the issue under review whilst we wait for devolved government to be re-established to get rid of this unreasonable law.

Motion proposed by Councillor Muir in June 2018 and agreed by Ards and North Down Borough Council: “That this Council requests that officers bring back a report on how the new legislation and arrangements concerning Special Events on Roads – road (Miscellaneous Provision) Act (NI) 2010 has been operating one year after enactment ton 4 September 2017 including costs charged compared to other Councils and with a specific focus concerning impact upon charitable / not for profit organisations and sporting events.”

Previous statements concerning issue:

Muir reports Kinnegar malodours to NI Environment Agency

Councillor Muir at Kinnegar Lagoons
I have referred the on-going malodours in the vicinity of the Kinnegar area to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency requesting assistance in eliminating  the regular foul smells, for good.

A number of years previously NI Water made a multi-million pound investment in Kinnegar Waste Water Treatment Plant after a long running campaign led by myself to stop pollution of Kinnegar Lagoons and associated malodours arising.

I have visited the site with NI Water officials and from initial investigations cause of previous malodours has been substantially addressed. During visit to the site we did however also inspect Tillysburn Stream and malodours were evident. Tillysburn Stream is a stretch of water running from Tillsburn Roundabout to back of IKEA, Holywood Exchange and B&Q.

Photo taken on Thursday 17 January 2019 during
Councillor Andrew Muir’s NI Water site
As a result of this visit of Tillysburn Stream I made contact with Belfast Harbour Commissioners, who we understand own the area in question. In conversation with an official from Belfast Harbour I was informed that annual clean-up of the stream had occurred in October 2018 before the anticipated storms in order to prevent flooding, clearing out debris to ensure culvert which links the stream with Belfast Lough was cleared. This has apparently occurred since 2010 with shell and sediment removed as part of the works ensuring the water was free flowing.

With these works occurring from 2010 the root cause of the problem has still not been established hence I have now referred the issue to the NI Environment Agency seeking assistance in addressing this issue. Local people have suffered from the problem for far too long and I will not rest until it’s resolved

Before and after photos from NI Water of Kinnegar Lagoons

Before and after photos from NI Water of Kinnegar Lagoons