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Friday, 17 December 2021

Alliance calls for government to grasp opportunity from delay to sale of Kinnegar Holywood Army Base

North Down Alliance representatives have called upon central and local government to grasp the opportunity arising from news that sale of Kinnegar Logistics Base in Holywood has been delayed by two years from 2022 to 2024. 

Member of Parliament for North Down Dr Stephen Farry stated “The Ministry of Defence has recently informed me that the anticipated disposal of Kinnegar Logistics Base has been delayed from 2022 to 2024. On the surface, this may be concerning news. But on reflection, this gives the Council and the potential developers time and the opportunity to fully engage with stakeholders, including the local community and facilitate creative and innovative and sustainable solutions. This is a one-off opportunity that we need to get right” 

Also commenting on the development, Andrew Muir MLA for North Down, who raised the matter in the Assembly on Monday 13 December 2021, stated “Whilst the site is currently the location for the temporary resting place that must be kept in place for as long as it is sadly required as a 54 acre prime site close to Belfast Kinnegar Logistics Base offer a huge wealth of potential that could be utilised but this must be in close consultation with local people with opening up and utilisation of the access road from Airport Road a critical part of any plans. 

Whilst I was disappointed by the decision taken by the DUP and UUP last year to defund the Masterplan process I previously recommended as a Councillor I would urge Ards and North Down Borough Council to re-think and fund the Masterplan in the context of this recent announcement and potential for many new jobs and millions of pounds of private sector investment. 

The Department for Communities must also step-up to help ensure acquisition of the site for regeneration using some of the powers they were meant to devolve to Councils but never did and indeed the Ministry of Defence must also speed up work to enable future development of the site. 

Most crucially, the Ministry of Defence need to reconsider their disposal policy and work with the Department for Communities and wider Northern Ireland Executive to align with previous disposal arrangements for many other bases”.

Official Report: Monday 13 December 2021

Members' Statements

Kinnegar Logistics Base

Mr Muir: I want to raise the future of Kinnegar logistics base in Holywood and to urge central and local government to grasp the opportunity presented by the recent decision, by the Ministry of Defence, to delay disposal by two years from 2022 to 2024. Kinnegar was previously a busy base, employing up to 1,000 civilian staff at the height of the Troubles, but the future need for this 54-acre base has changed. I welcome the commitment given by the Ministry of Defence that no job losses will occur and those currently employed there will be redeployed to other barracks.

 
Whilst the site is currently the location for the temporary resting place — and that must be kept in place for as long as it is, sadly, required — Kinnegar logistics base offers a huge wealth of potential that could be utilised, but it must be done in close consultation with local people. Kinnegar is already busy with traffic and, with its being built on sand dunes and needing robust flood protections, consulting with and securing the buy-in of local residents is essential in relation to plans and to any works that may be undertaken. The opening up and utilisation of the access road from Airport Road is a critical part of any plans. Additional vehicles cannot be squeezed through the esplanade.
 
As we have unfortunately seen at other sites across Northern Ireland, far too often assets close down, people move on and all that is left is a site turned into nothing more than an eyesore while public bodies dither and debate its future. In this context, in early 2018, I proposed, and the council agreed, the pursuit of a mixed-use master plan for the site in close consultation with local residents, businesses and other key stakeholders. I was, therefore, very disappointed to learn that, with £31 million of investment and over 1,000 new jobs on the horizon, some parties came together two years later, in February 2020, to defund this master planning work. I urge the council to rethink that in the context of the recent MOD announcement and put in place the necessary funding to safeguard its rates revenue from the site and also be part of efforts to boost its rates revenue and the significant jobs and wider investment that are possible.
 
The Department for Communities must also step up to help ensure the acquisition of the site for regeneration using some of the powers that were meant to devolve to councils but never did. Indeed, the Ministry of Defence must also speed up its work to enable the future development of the site. Crucially, the Ministry of Defence needs to reconsider its disposal policy and work with the Department for Communities and the wider Northern Ireland Executive to align its previous disposal arrangements with other bases.

Kinnegar logistics base has been part of the Holywood landscape for years and must be utilised, in close consultation with local residents, to create jobs, deliver homes and help keep Holywood on the map as somewhere to live and do business.

Alliance welcomes St Anne’s bid for Integrated Status

St Anne's Primary School in Donaghadee is at the beginning of an exciting journey towards hopefully becoming an Integrated School. 

The school was originally founded in 1932 and is situated on Millisle Road near the Town Centre.  Pupils come from Donaghadee, Millisle, Newtownards, Bangor and surrounding areas as well as internationally from Europe and Asia.  A recent parental vote on integration saw 96% of parents in support of the move. 


North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir is supporting their bid and said; "I am delighted to hear the results of the recent parental ballot at St Anne's Primary School. The Alliance Party are strong supporters of Integrated Education and I am thrilled to offer my support to the school as it takes its next steps in the months ahead. I have met with the Principal and parents who are excited about this new direction for the school and the momentum this will offer to children from different traditions and backgrounds.

This is an excellent opportunity for the school and locale. With new housing developments earmarked for the Donaghadee area it is anticipated there will be an increase in demand for more school places in the coming years and the move to becoming Integrated School offers a bright future for the Town. 

Integrated education is a key part of the Alliance Party's ethos, we believe that it helps us break down division in Northern Ireland by allowing children from all different backgrounds to learn together.  It is vital that decisions regarding education are based on what is best for our children and our society." 

Louise McCartney, a parent from St Anne's was delighted to hear the results of the parental ballot; "We are extremely happy over the landslide vote from parents in favour of integrated status and look forward to working with the wider community on this exciting new journey for the school." 

Dr Stephen Farry MP for North Down commented; "This approach is also likely to the most viable means to sustain and maximise the number of local primary school places in Donaghadee. With the current level of development in the town, and an increasingly diverse population, the integrated option is likely to be the most viable and inclusive way forward. 

It is also important to stress that Integrated Education is respectful of all faiths and seeks to accommodate them. For those parents who place a premium on that approach to education should be reassured of the strong precedents demonstrated elsewhere in Northern Ireland." 

Local Alliance Councillor Gavin Walker added "This is an exciting time for parents, staff, governors, and the wider school family at St Anne's as they pursue their journey toward integration. I have already taken the opportunity to provide practical support as the school undertakes to engage with every local household. 

The provision of an integrated Primary School would be really positive for Donaghadee as additional housing means we are welcoming so many new families into our community. For many years St Anne's has been an important source of education for local families from diverse backgrounds and traditions and this next step in its development is one I am confident our whole community will support."

Muir meets Education Minister at St Columbanus' College Bangor

North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir met with Education Minister Michelle McIlveen MLA, School Principal Maria Flynn, Chair of Board of Governors at McCartan, Father Gunn and officials on Monday 13 December 2021 to discuss a range of issues including accommodation requirements and road safety at nearby Ring Road. 

Commenting after the meeting Andrew Muir MLA stated “Opened on 29 November 1960 St Columbanus’ College is a first class school which both I and my mother had the privilege of attending with demand outstripping supply every year in terms of enrolment as a result of the excellent learning outcomes delivered through excellent teaching and a supportive environment fostered by staff and school leadership. 

With many of the school buildings constructed back in 1960 still standing and a number of mobile classrooms now in place the need for sustained investment in new and refurbished accommodation is clear. I was therefore grateful of the opportunity to make the case for this investment to the Minister with both short and long term actions needed to ensure young people are able to learn in quality spaces. 

With pupils living across the ring road having to cross the busy four lane carriageway without aid of a pelican cross the need for action and investment was also clearly made. I welcome the commitment I recently obtained from the Infrastructure Minister for assessment for provision of a controlled pedestrian crossing at the A2 East Circular Road and will continue to lobby the Infrastructure Minister to both meet on-site to see the issue and deliver this much needed crossing without delay”

Muir demands more action on water quality and safety at North Down Bathing areas

North Down Alliance MLA, Andrew Muir has highlighted the need for more local places to be designated as bathing areas ensuring that crucial water quality sampling will take place with testing occuring throughout the year. 

Mr Muir said; “I recently raised the issue of Water Quality and Safety at North Down Coastal Bathing areas in the Assembly and following correspondence with the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs I have requested that the popular bathing areas of Donaghadee Harbour, Orlock Point, Skippingstone Beach and Brompton are included in the review of bathing waters scheduled for 2022. These are not designated within the 26 current Northern Ireland bathing sites. 

Action is needed to ensure participants of this ever-increasing activity are protected from the potential dangers of polluted bathing waters, given that water quality testing only takes place between 1 June – 15 September each year at a select number of sites.  This is inadequate and there is a distinct need for year round water sampling to be undertaken and digital reporting of these results promptly issued. 

In addition there is a necessity for increased investment in promoting safety and sea awareness across our coastal waters and I am encouraged to see the instalment of new safety measures involving signage for bathers at a range of bathing spots along the North Down coastal area which will inform and advise people on how to stay safe in the water. 

I am however acutely aware that so much more needs to be done. Increased investment in the bathing water infrastructure such as bathing shelters, seawall railings, ladders and slipways will not only ensure that users of coastal areas can do so safely, but also that these inclusive spaces can be easily accessed by all. 

With Storm Arwen having wreaked havoc throughout the UK recently I was saddened to see the damage caused to the sea steps used by swimmers at Brompton in Bangor and have contacted the Council to urge repair and replacement work be undertaken asap as I know there’s many hardy souls who swim here all year round”