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Thursday, 10 December 2020

Government must move up a gear in Active Travel investment

Original Government Greenway Strategy in 2016

North Down Alliance Assembly Member, Andrew Muir MLA has raised the need for progress over the establishment of Greenways and other Active Travel measures across North Down after the Infrastructure Minister confirmed just £22,500 will be spent in the constituency during the current financial year. 

Commenting on the issue Mr Muir said “The Northern Ireland Government Greenway Strategy was launched in November 2016 and aims to create 1,000 kilometres of routes along former railway lines, inland waterway paths and other ways to link the Northern Ireland in a new traffic-free network. As we seek to build back a better and more sustainable future from the awful COVID-19 pandemic it’s vital government delivers upon their commitments in creating routes which enable active travel and healthy lifestyles developed in full collaboration and consultation with local people. 

A number of projects have been funded to date but sadly North Down remains at back of the queue with the Infrastructure Minister confirming that the paltry sum of just £22,500 has been set aside for North Down in the current financial year. The Department for Infrastructure must seriously redouble efforts to assist local Councils to deliver Greenways Infrastructure across Northern Ireland which protects of the natural environment and enables safe sharing of paths. 

I will soon be meeting with Ards and North Down Borough Council Officers to discuss what can be done to help progress Greenway plans already in development and will continue to urge the Minister for Infrastructure to moves things up a gear putting the wheels in motion towards greater investment in Active Travel and Greenway Infrastructure across North Down. With many people re-thinking their transport options it’s essential we make cycling and walking as accessible as possible in the future."

Alliance calls for progress on Belfast Road Crossing Measures

Belfast Road, Bangor

Alliance representatives have called upon the Department for Infrastructure to urgently progress planned works for the installation of pedestrian refuges and other road safety measures on the Belfast Road between the Springhill Flyover and Bangor Town Centre. 

Following a recent report from the Department for Infrastructure to Ards and North Down Borough Council, Alliance Councillor Scott Wilson commented “After campaigning for on this issue since 2014 I am frustrated to learn of this further delay. DfI have updated us that the issue is still under consideration and that they will continue to seek an appropriate location for the crossing. While a crossing would be ideal, I can’t understand why the failure to find a suitable location would halt the other work that was promised, which included a number of pedestrian refuge islands” 

“Local residents are desperate for a safe way to cross this very busy section of the Belfast Road and feel they have been let down by the department. I will continue to raise this until the next steps have been confirmed.” 

Commenting on the issue North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir said “I was disappointed to learn of the delay to these works after submitting a Written Assembly Question to the Minister for Infrastructure seeking an update over the issue.” 

“Works had originally been due to be included in the programme for the financial year 2019/20 but the Minister updated that the Department had been unable to identify a suitable location for the crossing due to a variety of factors including proximity to junctions and locations of businesses and accesses. This work should have been completed already, and residents are clearly frustrated that what was promised appears to have been shelved. I have written to the Department for Infrastructure Divisional Roads Manager urging for this to be progressed at the earliest opportunity."

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Muir calls for path along popular Clandeboye Way Walking Route

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has requested that a pedestrian path and appropriate slow signs be installed along a section of the popular local walking route from Helen’s Bay to Helen’s Tower.

Commenting on the issue Andrew Muir MLA stated “The route from Helen’s Bay to Helen’s Tower using the Clandeboye Way is well trodden and while most of it is along quiet country paths there is one small section that goes along the Crawfordsburn Road near the Clandeboye Estate.

Along this part of the road there is no footpath and it is very dangerous for pedestrians with some cars passing at speed. After being contacted by a number of concerned walkers I have contacted the local Department for Infrastructure Roads Section and requested they consider installing a pedestrian footpath along this section of the road as well as a slow signage to encourage motorists to reduce their speed. I hope the Department will see fit to move forwards with these measures as they would greatly reduce any risk to walkers and hopefully encourage more people out on this fantastic walking route.”

 

Roads Authority must put the foot down on speeding in Helen's Bay

Andrew Muir MLA at Craigdarragh Road, Helen’s Bay

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has welcomed the intervention of the Infrastructure Minister after Transport NI refused to consider installation of additional signage to curb speeding traffic along a key route in Helen’s Bay. 

The Alliance MLA contacted the Minister after being contacted by concerned residents with young children worried at speed of vehicles along both Craigdarragh Road and Fort Road in Helen’s Bay. 

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “As vehicles enter Helen’s Bay Village along the Craigdarragh Road speeds are meant to reduce to 30 mph but sadly this is not always the case with a real need to get new signage erected reminding motorists to reduce their speed. 

With a number of local residents making contact concerned about safety of pedestrians especially children and younger people I was profoundly disappointed our Roads Authority Transport NI refused to take action and therefore raised with the Infrastructure Minister. I am glad the Minister has thankfully intervened and requested a review of signage in the next few weeks. I would urge the Minister and the Roads Authority to ensure this review elicits action before it’s too late”.

AQW 8380/17-22

DATE FOR ANSWER: THURSDAY 22 OCTOBER 2020

Andrew Muir MLA (Alliance Party)

To ask the Minister for Infrastructure, in light of concerns expressed by local residents in relation to speeding, whether she will consider erecting additional signage on (i) Craigdarragh Road; and (ii) Fort Road, Helen’s Bay, to warn motorists of the 30mph speed limit.

ANSWER

The Highway Code for Northern Ireland states, at rule 124, that the presence of street lights indicates that a 30mph speed limit exists, unless otherwise specified. As Fort Road is within this street lit urban setting, repeater 30mph signs would not be considered appropriate.

Leaving Helens Bay, the Fort Road becomes the Craigdarragh Road and the speed limit changes along this road. I have asked officials to review signage on the Craigdarragh Road in the coming weeks to ensure that the speed limits are signed appropriately.

Where residents have concerns about speeding, I would encourage them to contact the PSNI who are the enforcement authority and can be contacted on their non-emergency number, 101.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Muir raises lack of investment in North Down Roads with Infrastructure Minister

Andrew Muir MLA raising issue with Infrastructure
Minister in Assembly Chamber on Tuesday 20 October 2020

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has raised the lack of investment in North Down roads with the Infrastructure Minister in the Assembly Chamber on Tuesday 20 October 2020 mentioning he has “a list the length of my arm of roads in the North Down constituency that require repair and maintenance”.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “During Assembly proceedings we were informed by the Minister of staggering amounts paid out partly due poor roads maintenance but yet only £1million in additional funding has been sought in the October Monitoring Round to cover Minor Works, Local Transport and Safety Measures to get roads and pavements resurfaced, pot holes fixed and other key local measures. 

With so many roads and other infrastructure are in real need of action locally in North Down but yet only half a dozen selected this year for repair and resurfacing it’s incredible just £1million more funding has been sought for all of Northern Ireland. I would again urge the Minister to explore every avenue possible to ensure chronic under investment in Infrastructure across North Down and beyond is tackled.”

Infrastructure Minister stated on 20 October 2020 in response to a Question from Andy Allen MLA “I can confirm that, during the six full financial years from 2014-15 to 2019-2020, £13·1 million in roads-related public liability compensation was paid in claims for vehicle damage, personal injury and property damage. During the same period, the Department received 18,452 public liability compensation claims and paid compensation in 10,453 cases. However, I wish to make it clear that claims received in one financial year are not always concluded within that financial year. Therefore, the figures that I have provided for cases where compensation was paid out, as well as the compensation amount, will include details for claims received in prior financial years. It has been independently established that, at today’s prices, some £143 million is needed to maintain the structural integrity of Northern Ireland’s road network. However, due to budget constraints, that amount has not been available over the period in question.

Muir welcomes plans to review Speed Limit on Ballyrobert Road

Andrew Muir MLA at Ballyrobert Road where calls
are being made to extend 30mph Speed Restriction to
.

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has welcomed commitment obtained from the Infrastructure Minister to review speed limits along the Ballyrobert Road after a long campaign led by local residents to extend the 30mph restriction to cover entire Crawfordsburn Village area.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Concerns about the speed of traffic travelling along the Ballyrobert Road in the area already designated as Crawfordsburn Village have been well documented and reported over the years but not yet resulting in action by Transport NI to reduce the speed limit from 60 to 30 miles per hour.

I am disappointed that Transport NI has persistently refused to reduce the limit to 30mph from Clandeboye Avenue to the current restriction ending at Crawfordsburn Filling Station despite many requests and motion jointly proposed by Alderman Marion Smith and I at Ards and North Down Borough Council. With many houses now built extending along the Ballyrobert Road to the Clandeboye Way it’s vital speed limits are reduced for the entire area designated as Crawfordsburn Village to avoid real risk of people being injured or worse as a result of cars proceeding at 60 mph in what is now a built up urban area.

Intervention of the Infrastructure Minister requesting that a new assessment is undertaken is therefore welcome after I raised the matter in a formal Assembly Question posed to Minister Mallon. I urge the Minister and Transport NI to fully consider the issue afresh and bring forward the much needed changes essential to safeguarding safety of local residents”

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Alliance welcome planned Coastal Path repairs

Councillor Gillian Greer and Andrew Muir MLA
at collapsed section of Coastal Path due to be repaired
.

North Down Alliance representatives have welcomed plans by the Council to repair collapsed section of the Coastal Path after sustainable lobbying for action.

Alliance Councillors Gillian Greer, Martin McRandal and North Down MLA Andrew Muir have been campaigning for action since the path collapsed back in April. 

Commenting on the issue, Councillor Gillian Greer remarked “I am glad to now learn that the surveys have been conducted and works are be planned to fix the collapsed section. I would urge Council to ensure these works occur without delay before Winter weather arrives”. 

Also involved in the campaign was Councillor Martin McRandal who stated “The North Down Coastal Path is a popular well used way for people to exercise and relax. The collapse earlier this year was a real concern especially after the upgrade works which occurred in recent years. Hopefully this fix will be permanent and no further issues arise requiring yet more partial closures”. 

Concluding, Alliance MLA Andrew Muir stated ”It’s extremely disappointing section of this path collapsed only a few years after upgrade but encouraging work not to occur to fix the fault. With many more people out enjoying the outdoors I hope Council gets the path safely repaired as soon as possible as weather and tides permit”.

Alliance urges inclusion of North Down Schools in next 20mph scheme

Andrew Muir MLA and Councillor Connie Egan
at Clandeboye Road, Bangor near
Clandeboye Primary School 

North Down Alliance representatives have called upon the Minister for Infrastructure to include North Down Schools within any further scheme of part time 20 mph speed restrictions outside Schools after not a single location was selected for introduction of the much needed measures in the North Down area. 

Commenting on the issue, North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir stated “Many parents have contacted me profoundly disappointed to learn that not one single school was selected for introduction of the much needed measures to help improve safety of children, parents and staff alike. I have queried this directly with the Infrastructure Minister and am frustrated to learn that “none of the schools in the North Down area were ranked highly enough to be included within this year’s programme”. 

I have however taken the Minister up on her statement that “It is my intention for this programme to be rolled out over the coming years and therefore other schools, including those in North Down, will be considered for inclusion in future programme” by posing a further question urging her to set aside funding in 2021/22 Financial Year to include North Down Schools and will continue to follow-up this issue with vigour conscious of the real risks which continue to exist in the absence of any schemes outside so many busy schools” 

Alliance Councillor for Bangor West Councillor Connie Egan has also been contacted by concerned parents keen to see schemes rolled out without delay across North Down. 

Commenting on the matter, Councillor Egan stated “It has rightly been argued that part time 20 mph restrictions should be in place outside every school putting aside the pick and mix approach adopted the date. Without the funding to enable a full roll out across Northern Ireland every part of Northern Ireland North Down Schools really ought to be included in schemes. A further scheme which includes schools in North Down must be brought forward next year and something I will relentlessly follow-up to achieve”.

 

 

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Muir welcomes Planning Review

Alliance Party MLA and Party Infrastructure Spokesperson Andrew Muir has welcomed the forthcoming review of Planning Legislation to be undertaken over the months ahead after the Assembly Infrastructure Committee discussed the terms of the review. He’s called for the review to be started without delay and result in swift changes to “enable more speedy decision making on Planning Applications”.

The review arises from a legal requirement inserted into the 2011 Act at Consideration Stage and should have taken place back in April 2018 but will now finally take place following the absence of an Executive over past three years. It’s hoped the review will be concluded by March 2021.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “The 2011 Planning Act was the most significant piece of planning legislation enacted in decades resulting in major changes in how planning applications are determined transferring many powers from Central to Local Government in 2015. A number of years later it’s right that we review whether the objectives set in 2011 have been achieved and what opportunity there is to deliver a more fit for purpose system by retaining, amending or repealing any elements.

Fact that the average period of time taken to determine Major Applications during 2019/20 was 52.8 weeks compared to a target of 30 makes it clear why the review should look at ways to ensure we have a quicker planning system as was the objective back in 2011 coupled with news I recently obtained that statutory consultees only replied to 70% of Planning Application consultation requests within the statutory time limits during 2019/20

I am glad to have secured commitment from the Department for Infrastructure’s Director of Planning that enactment of both primary and subordinate legislation will be considered if the review finds a case for change. A quick desktop review without an appetite for change would be extremely disappointing and failure to grasp opportunity for a range of relatively simple but vital changes which enable more speedy decision making on Planning Applications as we struggle to rebuild our economy whilst protecting our environment.”

Some changes proposed by Andrew Muir MLA include “Requirement for applicants to demonstrate how they have altered their proposals in light of issues raised during pre-application process thereby ending right to developers to use the process as a mere tick box exercise which fails to properly consider views and concerns of local people. Putting Pre-Development Examination process pioneered by NI Water on a statutory footing. Creating in legislation ability for Planning Authorities to reject poor quality applications with applications only validated once confirmed to be of a sufficient standard. In light of the delays in getting planning decisions introduction of Processing Agreements plus Statutory Determination Deadlines for Major Applications and Regionally Significant Applications with financial penalties if consultation responses not returned within pre-defined timeframe.”

Concluding, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Desire for more significant changes such as introduction of Third Party Right of Appeal remain alongside need to overhaul painstakingly slow process associated with Local Development Plans, some of which I fear may never see the light of day after what I fear will be decades of process, delays and inevitable legal challenge.”


Muir calls for Holywood Park and Ride expansion

North Down Alliance MLA and Assembly Infrastructure Member Andrew Muir has called upon the Infrastructure Minister to consider expansion of Holywood Rail Station Park and Ride. 

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Whilst rail and bus passengers numbers are currently low I’m keen to ensure we have better and more sustainable travel solutions once the pandemic eventually passes. 

With the Car Park at Holywood Rail Station is only able to accommodate a small amount of cars I contacted the Infrastructure Minister to see if she was willing to explore new Park and Ride site at Kinnegar Army Barracks which is due to be sold by 2022. 

I am disappointed no current desire to explore opportunities for use of the site utilising access road from the Harbour Estate but will keep seeking updates on Tillysburn Junction Park and Ride which the Minister cites as a possible alternative. It is however important previous plans for Tillysburn site are revised and new a design brought forward which better enables safe and easy access and exit at already busy and congested junction.” 

Infrastructure Minister’s response to Andrew Muir MLA’s Question attached plus photo of Holywood Rail Station taken by Andrew Muir which may be used without attribution

Q: To ask the Minister for Infrastructure whether consideration has been given to exploring the use of Kinnegar Logistics Base as a Park and Ride site once it becomes available for use in 2022.

A: I am committed to developing new integrated plans which deliver support for public transport, encourage more walking and cycling, better manage car commuting and promote sustainable development all in an effort to improve the environment and people’s lives. I recognise the role of Park and Ride schemes in helping to reduce City Centre congestion, and am keen to see such a facility constructed on the eastern side of Belfast. Initial studies have considered a number of sites around the Tillysburn Junction. Work to develop a Park and Ride site in this area is ongoing.

Muir welcomes Cultra Avenue resurfacing but urges authorities to do more to tackle North Down roads resurfacing backlog

North Down Alliance MLA and Party Infrastructure Spokesperson Andrew Muir has welcomed plans to resurface Cultra Avenue in Holywood but called upon the Infrastructure Minister for take action to ensure more roads repairs across North Down.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “For years I have been contacted by local residents fed up with the state of Cultra Avenue with a lunar like road surface as opposed to smooth surface with massive pot holes and tarmac falling apart. I am therefore delighted to learn about resurfacing plans after requesting action to get the road resurfaced. 

I am however disappointed this is currently just one of three roads in North Down due to get resurfaced with so many roads and pavements across the constituency in urgent need of repair. The on-going lack of investment by the Department for Infrastructure isn’t acceptable and must be addressed by the Minister to ensure residents have a fit for purpose and safe way to travel. I have raised a formal Question at the Assembly on the issue urging the Minister to bid for additional funds will continue to push for progress because, put simple, people of North Down deserve better”.

Muir calls for assistance to local businesses Excluded from support

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir spoke in the Assembly on Tuesday 15 September 2020 in support of calls to provide much needed assistance to local businesses excluded from grant assistance. 

Quoting some examples of businesses in need, Andrew Muir MLA stated “From the very start of this crisis I have been in regular contact with businesses in my constituency that have been left in utter despair” 

Andrew Muir MLA also remarked “I have so many examples of businesses in North Down and beyond who were not eligible for business support grants because of so many reasons, whether it be their business rates were over the NAV thresholds (some very marginally by just a pound), company directors with no PAYE employees who could not apply for the Hardship Fund,  Bed and Breakfast owners or those who didn’t operate out of fixed property who couldn’t apply for grants based on rateable value, and newly-self employed entrepreneurs who did not meet the criteria for UK Self Employed Support Scheme.” 

Concluding his remarks in the Assembly Andrew Muir MLA stated “It is long beyond time that the Minister for the Economy should have brought forward a hardship scheme for businesses that have been excluded from existing support packages. I have written to her on numerous occasions about the issues that have arisen in the debate. Unfortunately, I eventually received only generic responses, offering little more than tea and sympathy. Minister, the time for tea and sympathy is up. The time for action is now.

Alliance calls for North Down not to be left out in School 20mph Speed Restrictions Schemes


North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir and Councillor Connie Egan has called for the Department for Infrastructure to prioritise introduction of 20 mph Speed Limit Schemes in North Down after not a single school was included in most recent Ministerial announcement. 

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA and Party Infrastructure Spokesperson stated “Whilst I warmly welcome the Minister’s announcement to roll out schemes across Northern Ireland I am disappointed no schools in North Down are listed to be included. 

The safety of children and young people must be of paramount importance but I am very worried to see no action to help limit the speed of traffic outside North Down schools currently without speed restrictions. I have formally raised the matter with the Infrastructure Minister and will be lobbying for action to ensure this omission is rectified” 

Councillor Connie Egan added: “It is a matter of regret schools in North Down missed out on this opportunity in joining others in having the safety of their pupils increased by this move. 

Parents of young people in many local schools have contacted Alliance asking us to push for the Minister to think again and it is something we will pursue. In the meantime, I would appeal to all drivers to take care and slow down while outside schools”

Alliance representatives call for action to tackle parking problems

Local Alliance Party representatives have called for the Department for Infrastructure to take action to tackle parking problems being endured by local residents in Helen’s Bay, Seapark and Cultra.

Alliance MLA Andrew Muir and Councillors McRandal and Greer made the call after being inundated with complaints from local householders desperate to see parking restrictions enforced and extended to stop driveways being blocked and roads difficult to travel.

Local Police have temporarily deployed cones in areas and confirmed that whilst in general parking enforcement is not a Police responsibility (other than in cases involving offences such as obstruction and parking within 15 metres of a junction) tickets have been issued. On Monday 15 June 2020 that a total of 53 fixed penalty notices were issued for parking offences from 1 May 2020 to 12 June 2020 at Helen's Bay - Church Road, Grey Point and Fort Road. 

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir stated “Easing of lockdown restrictions and recent good weather has seen many people flock to popular destinations such as Helen’s Bay, Seapark and Cultra. The resulting impact upon local residents is however a matter of real concern with driveways blocked and roads made difficult to travel. 

It’s essential the Department for Infrastructure take action introducing additional parking restrictions where required in areas. Red coat parking attendants also need deployed to enforce contraventions not just on a 9-5 Monday to Friday basis. Staff need taken off furlough and deployed without delay.” 

Holywood and Clandeboye Alliance Councillor Martin McRandal commented “The right to easily access your home without difficulty is a basic understandable request far too often denied in recent times to people in Helen’s Bay, Seapark and Cultra. Placing Double Yellow Lines along Seapark Road would help enormously and should be actioned by the Department for Infrastructure without delay alongside better enforcement by authorities. The placement of a few cones isn’t enough.” 

Gillian Greer, Alliance Councillor for Holywood and Clandeboye Electoral Area also remarked “Seeing cars parked across driveways, on verges, double yellow lines, pavements and right up Church Road to Helen’s Bay Square is a matter of concern which must be addressed whether by Parking Attendants or Police, where relevant. I would also urge people not to come in the volumes experienced thus far to visit beaches and beauty spots as the numbers is overwhelming local neighbourhoods”

Sea Swimming Water Quality alerts must improve - Muir

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has asked the Environment Minister about ways the public are alerted to water pollution events after a recent pollution incident affecting the river running through Crawfordsburn Country Park on Saturday evening 12 September 2020.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Whilst I am glad to learn that trout fish are thankfully still alive in the river with no indication bathing water is now unsafe to swim in quicker and better ways need to be found to alert the public when pollution occurs.

Water quality sampling should also be extended beyond the limited locations to include places like Brompton and narrow timeframes with the bathing season officially ending on 15 September but continuing all year round for some hardy souls.”

Alliance welcome Rathgael Road Crossing progress




North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir and Councillor Gillian Greer have welcomed commitment from Transport NI to explore creation of a safe pedestrian crossing on the Rathgael Road in Bangor after they made representations for action in response to many concerns expressed by local residents urging action before a tragic accident occurs.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “With the Rathgael Road now upgraded in parts to a four lane carriageway and acting as de facto outer ring road local people are increasingly concerned at risks associated with crossing the road desperate for a safe crossing to be installed before someone is killed or seriously injured.

After lobbying Transport NI for action I am glad to be informed they intend to explore feasibility of creating safe pedestrian crossings and will continue to push for progress until much needed infrastructure put in place”

Speaking about the issue, local Councillor Gillian Greer said that concern about traffic speed and management on the Rathgael Road has been a long running issue, with the widening of the road exacerbating the problems.  Cllr Greer said, “I have written to Transport NI many times, highlighting safety concerns and I’m glad to hear that they are now taking this issue seriously and will be assessing the feasibility of creating a safe pedestrian crossing”

Alliance calls for Council to fix Coastal Path collapse

Local Alliance Party Representatives have called for swift action to be taken by the Council to repair crumbling section of the coastal path. Alliance MLA Andrew Muir and Councillors Martin McRandal and Gillian Greer have highlighted the urgent need for repair to this section of the Coastal Path near Station Road and Frenchwood Park.

This section of the path is Council owned. Council officers confirmed that they currently have a structural engineer assessing it and are awaiting his recommendations.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Big questions have to be asked why this section of the North Down Coastal Path has collapsed only a few years after upgrade. With many more people out enjoying the outdoors during the Summer months it’s vital Council gets the path safely repaired without delay enabling walkers, runners and cyclists safely travel along the coast”

Councillor Martin McRandal remarked “Concerns about the safety of the path at this location were raised with us by users and I was relieved to see that it was sectioned off. For the safety and convenience of all coastal path users it is important that restoration works be undertaken as soon as possible”

Concluding, Councillor Gillian Greer commented, “This is the second time in less than a year that a section of the Coastal Path has crumbled. Survey work has recently been completed, but it is essential that works begin as soon as possible to restore the Coastal Path, as it plays a key role for both leisure and tourism within the Borough”.

Muir calls for A2 cycle path extension

North Down Alliance MLA and Party Infrastructure Spokesperson Andrew Muir has pledged to keep up the pressure to create safer cycling routes after the Infrastructure Minister confirmed to him significant challenges exist to extending the A2 Cycle Path from Ballyrobert and Holywood.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew Muir MLA stated “With cycling and active travel on the increase in the context of COVID-19 it’s especially important we have safe cycling routes to enable people to travel by bicycle. Forcing people to cycle along the busy A2 Bangor to Belfast is therefore a matter of real concern requiring investment to safely segregate cyclists from vehicular travel moving at 50mph.

I’ve raised this issue with the Minister and need to extend the segregated cycle lane beside the A2 Bangor to Belfast Road from Ballyrobert to Holywood but disappointed to learn that a feasibility study is unlikely to be commissioned due to unspecified significant challenges.

Whilst I will seek to get clarification on the challenges alluded to this reply only serves to confirm the need for Ards and North Down Borough Council to proceed with wider Greenway plans. Stretches of the North Down Coastal Path are currently unsuitable for cycling but with sensitive development of the route safer travel can be enabled by all users including cyclists. I will continue to push for sufficient funding from the Department for Infrastructure to enable these plans to go ahead”

Muir keeps up the fight to plug the Kinnegar pong

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir is keeping up the pressure to plug the pong pervading areas of Holywood from Kinnegar to Strathearn, Belfast Road and beyond. 

Commenting on ongoing efforts to address the stink, Andrew Muir MLA stated “Awful sewage malodours reappeared a number of months ago with real vengeance but as of yet it’s been 

impossible to identify the source with local residents forced to endure pungent smells day and night.

Following my efforts to secure investment of £4.5million to upgrade the Kinnegar Sewage Treatment Plant and end pumping of raw sewage into the nearby Lagoons I am appalled that local people have to experience the powerful pongs once again.

After failing to identify the source following significant and sustained engagement with Northern Ireland Water I made contact with Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who undertook investigations without any success but reported:

I understand that my staff have previously explained that the tidal mudflats and lagoons are subject to a limited exchange of water. During the summer months this limitation coupled with the presence of nutrients has the potential to cause eutrophication, leading to the growth of plants and algae. The natural decay of this vegetation will deoxygenate the water which can cause the release of gas that is similar to a smell of sewage and this could potentially be the source of the odour.

Whilst I appreciate NIEA’s work and findings these add little comfort to local residents enduring the maldours. I have therefore now made contact Ards and North Down Borough Council’s Environmental Health Department who are undertaking their own investigations. I hope these yield both findings and solutions because local people deserve much better than the current situation”.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Alliance calls for Council to put wheels in motion towards Coastal Path upgrade

Councillor Martin McRandal and
Andrew Muir MLA at North Down
Coastal Path section in need of upgrade

North Down Alliance Councillor Martin McRandal and I have urged the Council and Department for Infrastructure to progress plans apace to make North Down Coastal Path safer and easier to travel by prioritising upgrade of the stretch between Royal Belfast Golf Club and Seahill. 

We have made the call after the Department for Infrastructure made £20 million available as part of Blue Green Fund for Greenways and other initiatives.

With more people out walking, running and cycling in recent times the need to deliver fit for purpose safe infrastructure for active living and travel is increasingly important.

This has been rightly recognised by government setting aside a fund for Greenways and other infrastructure.

Ards and North Down Council should seek to utilise the funding without delay proceeding to the next stage to deliver schemes already in development across the Borough linking Holywood to Bangor, Donaghadee to Conlig and on to Newtownards and the Comber Greenway.

Councillor Martin McRandal commented “We are blessed to have this wonderful resource which many of us have been taking the opportunity to enjoy within the past few weeks. The fact that it accommodates different types of users - walkers, dog walkers, runners and cyclists - can cause difficulties. Development of this section of the coastal path will help to alleviate these difficulties and make it safer for all users.”

 

Monday, 8 June 2020

Muir and McRandal welcomes Cairn Wood Forest upgrade works

Councillor Martin McRandal and I have welcomed planned upgrades at Cairn Wood Forest in Craigantlet whilst appealing for patience with car park to remain closed in order to enable the works to occur.

Ards and North Down Borough Council have been awarded funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The first phase involves extension of the Car Park and new toilet facility. The second phase involves improvements to the walking trails. The walki

@LansPics on Twitter

ng trails will be made more suitable for family / casual cycling rather than mountain biking in light of consultation responses received by Council. A trail designer has been commissioned to develop detailed plans.

Works were due to commence in March 2020 but were put on hold due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Works will start on 15 June and complete in October 2020. Both the car park and woodland will be closed for this period.

After leading a concerted and successful campaign involving nearly 3,000 people signing a Petition to Save Cairn Wood I'm delighted to see works soon due to commence to upgrade parts of the very popular Forest. With Cairn Wood now firmly in public hands, fully owned by the Forest Service by managed by the Council a long term future can be developed in sympathy to current scenic surroundings and liaison with key users who were critical in efforts to stop sale of the Forest to the highest bidder.

I will be engaging with Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in due course to ensure funding flows to enable the Council to progress plans previously developed and consulted upon
.

Councillor Martin McRandal stated "This is exciting news. The works will include extension of the trail network within the woodland, extension of the car park and new WC facilities.

The works are due to begin 15th June, with plans to reopen Cairn Wood in October. Unfortunately whilst the works are ongoing both the car park and the woodland will be closed to the public. We appeal to everyone for patience. Please do not travel to Cairn Wood whilst it is closed. Vehicles cannot safely park on the B170 Craigantlet Road."

 

Friday, 5 June 2020

Muir calls for Minister to take the brakes off Greenway Funding

The Minister for Infrastructure needs to release funding earmarked for Greenway Schemes as we seek to encourage more Active Travel.

With the amount of people out walking on the increase and government keen to encourage more Active Travel it’s frustrating that the Department for Infrastructure is holding back monies for Greenway Schemes across Northern Ireland


Many Councils, including Ards and North Down, have developed schemes but had to app
ly the brakes whilst they await funding to enable to them to proceed to the next stage. This follows extensive consultations and scoping studies previously undertaken aiming to achieve works which make routes more accessible whilst sensitively respecting the surrounding environment and taking into account views expressed.


I have submitted a formal question to the Minister for Infrastructure for an update on Greenway funding in the hope that she puts in the wheels in motion and will continue to push for progress keen to ensure we can get the schemes developed moving”.

Information on Ards and North Down Council Greenway Plans at https://www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/about-the-council/consultations/greenways-network

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Our ‘New Normal’ must be cleaner and greener than the past

Our new ‘New Normal’ to be cleaner and greener than the past. The need to tackle Climate Change to avert catastrophe will still be with us once COVID-19 passes, with a real risk that poor air quality returns if we don’t take big decisions now to avoid clogging our streets up with cars.

As Alliance Party Infrastructure Spokesperson I welcome Minister Nichola Mallon’s announcement to appoint a Walking and Cycling Champion but urge that practical actions are be taken without delay.

Decisions taken in the next few weeks about how we travel in Northern Ireland will effect generations to come. It is therefore crucial that the Department for Infrastructure and wider Executive grasp the challenge and lead historic step change towards active, sustainable and accessible travel. Recent reports that traffic in Northern Ireland has not fallen to the same levels as rest of UK and Ireland are a matter of real concern which ought to motivate all Executive Ministers to take swift action.

I welcome news the Infrastructure Minister is prepared to consider my suggestion that government offer discount vouchers for purchase and repair of Bicycles. A simple but perhaps effective way to boost Active Travel.

Capital Investment plans must also be reviewed and reprioritised to reflect new priorities of 2020 with significant active and public transport provision required to enable both social distancing now and a more sustainable future ahead.

Our cycling before Social Distancing was a term we heard about

The public sector also ought to lead the way in moving towards new working arrangements including working from home, staggered and flexible working patterns plus video conferencing, all embraced as the norm

Further action such as Bus and Rail Fare Promotions, amending legislation to enable a more speedy introduction of cycling provision and bus lanes should be considered alongside a ban on pavement parking plus assistance and guidance for the Taxi industry to continue in the context of social distancing requirements.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Change of legislation needed to promote active lifestyles, says Muir

If we are to properly promote active lifestyles, there needs to be a change of legislation to help organisers of local sporting events across North Down and beyond.

I met with Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon on Monday 9 March 2020 alongside representatives from Athletics Northern Ireland, Triathlon Ireland and the Northern Ireland Sports Forum, to discuss the Roads Miscellaneous Provisions Act (NI) 2010, which permits the closure of roads for the holding of special events.


 From left, John Allen (Athletics NI), Darren Coombes (Triathlon Ireland), Andrew Muir MLA, David Seaton (Athletics NI), Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon MLA and Ciaran Kearney (NI Sports Forum).

New legislation in 2017 gave local authorities the power to approve such events on roads. 

This legislation was pushed through just as the Assembly was collapsing, with many far-reaching negative consequences upon local communities and sporting bodies.

It comes at a time when we are trying to encourage active lifestyles and community participation. However, with devolution now restored, an opportunity now exists to fix this bad law. I was therefore grateful to the Minister for meeting and listening to the issues experienced by the officials from the relevant representative bodies.

I am pleased there are plans to undertake a review with a consultation to gather the views, with an aim to agree a way forward by early autumn. If we are to properly promote active lifestyles, the legislation needs changed and organisers should not be hit with prohibitive costs and rules, resulting in significantly higher entry fees and the cancellation of events.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Alliance Conference 2020 Shaping our Future


Shaping our Future Panel Discussion Speech

Alliance Conference 2020

 You can also listen at http://tiny.cc/rwfzkz

As we prepare to celebrate the fifteenth Anniversary of the Alliance Party’s foundation it’s truly uplifting to see the party full of passionate people of all ages eager to shape a new future for everyone across Northern Ireland.

A new future breaking away from the old divisions and intolerances of the past.

A new future where the blackboard so well presented in Derry Girls is considered a novel reflection of an old forgotten past. For the record, I keep my toaster in the cupboard and hate soup. I never really thought whether you wore a gilet or liked soup was an indication of your religion but in the new Northern Ireland where more and more people are neither Catholic or Protestant the old ways of pigeon holing people just ain’t relevant.


As has been seen in recent elections, it’s increasingly clear that people are throwing aside the orange and green lenses by which nearly everything has previously been viewed and instead opting for clear, bright, sharp lenses which show a new rainbow society of minorities.

Now that the Assembly is back it’s vital we continue the surge towards shaping the new future people demanded and voted for not just once, or twice but three times last year.

No longer can the Assembly be seen as a by word for inaction, intolerance and veto with minority rights denied, difficult decisions deferred and a future focused on the past rather than the hopes and dreams felt today.

The Alliance Party is there to shape a new future for everyone reflecting the change that is already a happening. Fact that this year will feature an historic occasion with Pride Festivals not just occurring in Belfast and Derry~Londonderry but also Newry, Larne, Cookstown, and Fermanagh is just one example of the change occurring in communities shaped by local people and deserving of support. Raising Pride flags or lighting up a building in Rainbow colours to mark such occasions really shouldn’t be such a drag.

That’s why Alliance representatives such as Rachael Ferguson, Sorcha Eastwood, Danny Donnelly and Eóin Tennyson are so important, championing a shared present and pushing for a future resisted by some in other parties but yearned for by the people.

The Militant Moderates, the change makers, the peace builders, the ones delivering today and shaping our future for tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Tasting a dram shouldn’t be a drama – Alliance

Councillor Gavin Walker and I are calling for the new Communities Minister to ensure licensing legislation is reformed without delay to enable local Distilleries to offer tasting without fear of prosecution.

Gavin Walker, Councillor for Bangor East and Donaghadee and I both visited the new Copeland Distillery in Donaghadee on 20 February 2020 to hear of concerns from owner Gareth Irvine.

Andrew Muir MLA, Gareth Irvine  from Copeland Distillery and Councillor Gavin Walker 

The Copeland Distillery was originally founded by Gareth Irvine in the Summer of 2016 and is a producer of a range of Irish Gin, Single Malt and Pot Still Whiskey.

Whilst it has been great to see Copeland Distillery opening in Donaghadee and enjoying some great success to date it's bonkers that they are not allowed to offer taste tours to visitors at the actually distillery but instead need to take customers to a separate bar. Legislation must be reformed to enable distilleries to sell alcohol on their premises and offer taste tours on-site without having to obtain a liquor licence.

Councillor Gavin Walker stated "Requirement to obtain a Public House Licence involves significant expenditure and a change of use for part of the premises in planning terms. The cost would be prohibitive. It would also mean the Distillery would be competing against existing Public Houses in town. Gareth wants to provide an additional attraction, not a competing one. Reform of our out-dated licencing laws is therefore essential."

Gareth Irvine, owner of Copeland Distillery commented "Whilst we are able to offer tours this involves a short walk to a bar and need to navigate stairs to second floor of an old building. Modern licensing laws would make life much better for Copeland and other Distilleries enabling us to contribute to economic and tourism growth. We join with Hospitality Ulster in calling for change and hope the new Communities Minister can deliver much needed legislative reform in the near future."

Written Question and Answer from Andrew Muir MLA to the Minister for Communities below:

Q: To ask the Minister for Communities whether she plans to revise licensing legislation to enable local producers of beer, cider and spirits to sell their products directly to the public; and, if so, when the legislation will be brought forward.

A: The reform of licensing laws is an Executive priority under the New Decade, New Approach Deal, and is one that I am keen to move forward as soon as possible.

I am currently considering a draft outcome report on the Department's recent consultation on liquor licensing laws, which includes a number of representations from local producers of beer, cider and spirits. I will announce how I intend to proceed in due course.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Maiden Speech as MLA

Monday 3 February 2020 at Northern Ireland Assembly

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will start by welcoming you to the role and thanking everyone throughout the Chamber for the welcome that has been provided to me. In the short period since I became an MLA, one thing that has become acutely apparent to me is that, whilst these institutions are supported by structures, it is relationships that form their foundation. If the last three years have taught us anything, it should be the importance of relationships as the way to strengthen the foundation of these institutions.

Talking of relationships, this brings me to the reason why I am here, namely the elevation of my predecessor to the House of Commons. My relationship with Stephen Farry started nearly 30 years ago in the early 1990s, when we were both young-ish and I delivered leaflets and canvassed for Stephen's election to council. I have deeply admired his dedication, insight, integrity and courtesy shown to all. I was, therefore, absolutely delighted to see Stephen elected as my Member of Parliament, and honoured to have been selected by the Alliance Party as his replacement.

Stephen Farry follows in the footsteps of Lady Sylvia Hermon, who personified North Down in so many ways for the 18 years that she served as MP. She was respectful, principled and passionately committed to representing and reaching out to all communities. Stephen Farry and Lady Sylvia Hermon say everything about why I love north Down. I am so immensely proud to represent the people and the place where I was born, grew up and live.


While some may not think of it as remotely enjoyable, one way that I get to enjoy north Down is by running many miles amongst the wonderful natural environment that we are so lucky to have, but, Members, as we have seen in recent times, we cannot take our environment for granted. The impact of climate change has already taken effect on the most vulnerable across the globe. The risk of climate catastrophe is ever-increasing, especially if we do not take action now. I am, therefore, glad that one of the first motions to be debated in this place during this mandate is about such a topic. At this point, I should declare for the record that I am a former employee of Translink and councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council.


Whilst I welcome the commitments given in the motion and in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document, if we are to genuinely declare a climate emergency, I suggest we must be prepared to respond accordingly. The commitments given in the 'New Decade, New Approach' document should be the bare minimum, and, as a result, I cannot support amendment No 2. The independent Environmental Protection Agency must be urgently established to bring us into line with the rest of the British Isles and Europe. It must have real teeth and real freedom to pursue its remit with vigour. The targets in the Climate Change Act must stretch us in ways that we have never envisaged. Petrol and diesel cars need to be phased out. Plans to expand the Sydenham bypass to three lanes need to be shelved. The way we move around has to change.

A step change in how we produce and use energy is essential. It should not just be about reduce, reuse and recycle but rather reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink — rethinking everything we do about waste. We need a collective effort involving everyone at every level of society and government. It would be great if this were the first issue to be addressed by the citizens' assembly.

I believe that we are up to the challenge. As Alan Turing — a personal hero of mine — once said:

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."

Plenty does need to be done, but I believe that together we can do it.

I am wearing a dicky bow. Hopefully, that is a tradition that has been set for maiden speeches.

Muir urges Minister to ensure Residents Parking Scheme Review reports promptly

I have urged the new Infrastructure Minister to ensure review into Residents’ Parking Schemes reports promptly.

The Minister recently replied to an Assembly Question posed by me detailing that a review is currently being undertaken after introduction of first Residents’ Parking Scheme in South Belfast.

With the problem of residential parking already well known in Bangor, Holywood and so many Towns and Cities beyond North Down it’s essential that evaluation of initial scheme is completed without delay. Local people unable to get parked anywhere near to their home should not have to wait any longer to hear about proposed plans for future roll out to other areas.

Whilst there cannot ever be a perfect Residents Parking Scheme which meets needs of everyone the current situation being endured by residents in many areas across Northern Ireland is entirely unsatisfactory and needs to be addressed via balanced proposals which must not place any undue financial burden on people wishing to obtain a permit and ability to park near their home.

Written Assembly Question and response below

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Andrew Muir MLA recruiting staff

As Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for North Down I am seeking to recruit a number of staff.

Recruitment is underway for a full time Casework and Constituency Manager plus part time Policy and Research Officer working three days a week and part time Constituency Office Coordinator working four mornings a week.

More detail on each job and how to apply can be found below via relevant links.

Casework and Constituency Manager, full time, 37 hours a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/casework-and-constituency-manager

Constituency Office Co-ordinator, part time, working four mornings a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/constituency-office-co-ordinator-0 

Policy and Research Officer, part time, working three days a week
https://www.communityni.org/job/policy-and-research-officer-4


Closing date for all posts is Monday 3 February 2020 at Noon