Tuesday, 31 May 2022
North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has warmly welcomed the recent award of City Status given to Bangor, calling it a ‘landmark moment’ for the whole community.
Mr Muir was speaking after it was formally announced that Bangor would become one of eight places across the UK and beyond that have been awarded civic honours as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Mr Muir has detailed how Bangor’s Christian Heritage, proud naval tradition and the role Bangor played in helping the Allies during the Second World War all helped to shape the bid that would eventually lead to the honour of City status.
‘I love Bangor and am proud to call it my home,’ Mr Muir said. ‘Bangor is a fantastic place to live, work and invest and I am glad to see this well-deserved title being awarded. This a landmark event worthy of celebration putting Bangor firmly on the map recognising all our achievements, past, present and ahead of us in the future. Our sea-side City is already a major events centre in terms of heritage, sport, music and arts and I look forward to seeing further investment, development and regeneration of our City centre as we build on this exciting opportunity to see Bangor flourish. I’m delighted award of Freedom of the Borough to Health and Social Care staff in 2018 helped secure the successful bid, this was a very proud moment for me with my Mum serving for decades in the NHS. Together, we can succeed."
Alliance North Down Assembly candidate Andrew Muir has been continuing his engagement with statutory bodies in a bid to bring an end to anti-social behaviour issues plaguing residents and visitors to Ballyholme Beach.
The popular beauty spot is a local highlight especially in the warmer spring and summer months. Unfortunately, the increased footfall also brings problems with littering, alcohol consumption, noise and even trespassing onto local properties now becoming a serious problem.
Commenting on the issue Mr Muir said “For the past two summers we have had reports of people straying onto privately owned properties near the beach front as well as late night noise from cars speeding up and down The Banks lane to and from Ballyholme Beach carpark. Some recent recordings made by residents are shocking listening with loud noise levels at 2 and 3 am in the morning from cars and people whilst residents try to sleep.”
“I understand this is a very popular local spot and everyone should be able to enjoy it but some of the recent behaviour is bang out of order and entirely unacceptable. A recent site meeting with Council officials discuss the problems and potential solutions to stop the trespassing onto local properties produced some promising possible solutions which I will be following up upon. I have also requested a meeting with the new Police Area Commander and followed up with the local neighbourhood Policing team to see if anymore can be done to curb the noise made at night which is really disruptive to residents living nearby.”
“I am hopeful that working together we can find realistic solutions and minimise the impact of these problems on local residents.”
Alliance Infrastructure Spokesperson Andrew Muir has expressed his frustration at seemingly endless circle of delays to resurface key roads across North Down by the Department for Infrastructure.
Pointing to just one example, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Roads Division listed Holywood Hight Street for inclusion in its 2021/22 report to Ards and North Down Borough Council which was welcome news to the many businesses and residents who use this busy road on a daily basis. After no progress Mr Muir recently contacted DfI to check for an update on when works may begin at this and a number of other locations.
Mr Muir stated, “The upper end of Holywood High Street near the Police Station has been in a poor state of repair for many years now with many businesses, visitors and local residents driving through Holywood every day.
After pushing for the road to be resurfaced I was delighted to see it listed to be done during the 2021/22 financial year but with the end of this financial year rapidly approaching I contacted the Infrastructure Minister to confirm when the resurfacing would be commencing at this and other spots.
The response received was astounding detailing that plans had changed and there would now be design works commissioned to complete asphalt resurfacing as opposed to concrete resurfacing and that the Department was now “hopeful” this would be included in the 2022/23 works programme.
It’s massively disappointing that after waiting so long for this work to be scheduled it turns out it’s delayed yet again. The Department seem to be failing to complete even the modest works scheduled and this is why we’re seeing such a continuous decline in the standard of our road network.
In the last financial year even with a budget confirmed it took many months before the Department confirmed their planned works in Autumn 2021. Now without a budget we are being told nothing can be confirmed. I would urge the Department not to sit on its hands but do all it can to deliver indicative plans for works to be completed over the next twelve months bringing a halt to this seemingly endless circle of resurfacing delays. So many areas need action now, whether it be Holywood High Street, Bridge Road South, Crawfordsburn, Groomsport Road in Bangor and the list goes on and on and on."
Egan & Muir submit Nominations to stand as Alliance Party Assembly Election Candidates in North Down
North Down Alliance candidates for the Assembly election on 5 May 2022 have submitted their formal nominations at Bangor Castle on Friday 1 April 2022. Connie Egan and Andrew Muir are in the running in North Down alongside Kellie Armstrong and Nick Mathison in Strangford.
Speaking after Nomination, Connie Egan stated “I’m delighted to have been nominated as an Alliance candidate for North Down in the upcoming Assembly Election. It’s been an honour to serve Bangor West as a Councillor since 2019 and I hope to continue the work I have been doing in the Assembly; confronting the climate emergency, tackling the crisis in the health system, pushing for investment in North Down and promoting LGBT+ and women’s rights
North Down has led from the front in recent years with the election of its first Alliance MP, it is clear we have the momentum to deliver progressive change in representation in this constituency, by electing two progressive Alliance MLAs.”
Andrew Muir also remarked “It’s been a privilege to serve the people of North Down for well over a decade, first as Councillor from 2010, Mayor 2013/14 and MLA since late 2019, providing positive, progressive leadership, working hard to help hundreds of people on a wide range of issues especially people in need of Health Care. As Party Finance & Infrastructure Spokesperson I have been championing actions to deal with the rising Cost of Living, funding for our NHS, legislation to tackle Climate Change, support for businesses and more.
There’s a mountain of work that needs done but with others focused on division and disruption every vote will count to break the deadlock by electing Connie Egan and I. With your support, together, we can deliver the bigger Alliance MLA team needed to transform the Assembly, for good.”
Commenting on the matter, Andrew Muir stated “Conversion Therapy is deeply harmful which must be outlawed without delay but nearly a year after the Assembly voted in favour of a Ban I am bitterly disappointed the Assembly mandate ended without even a consultation being commenced on legislative proposals to criminalise these harmful practices.
The fact that a dedicated staff resource to take forward a ban was only put in place from January 2022 just adds to concern that the focus and priority given to this does not match the urgency needed to end the harm being perpetrated.
U-turns, chaos and confusion from the UK Government is just adding to the feeling of despair with action in England & Wales delayed or denied and trans people likely to be subject to yet more discrimination as a regular of planned exclusion.
If the delays from the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland continue and I am elected back to the Assembly on 5 May it would be my intention to consult upon my own Private Members Bill to Ban Conversion Therapy. We cannot continue to postpone action to stop the harm being inflicted upon LGBTQI+ people. We’ve travelled a long way along the road towards a truly inclusive and equal future for LGBTQI+ people but there’s much more that needs done right now. We cannot afford to wait a day longer to Ban Conversion Therapy and end the harm done”
Alliance Party representative and Assembly candidate Andrew Muir has met up with local campaigners keen to save Stonebridge in Conlig and again called for the Department for Infrastructure to halt plans to abandon Stonebridge, Conlig. The Alliance representative has stated that if the Department are unwilling to drop their Abandonment proposal a Public Inquiry must be held over the future of Stonebridge. The historic Belfast and County Down Railway Bridge that dates back to 1861.
For a number of months Mr Muir has been working with local residents to prevent the progression of a proposed Abandonment Order that has been made on The Green Road, Conlig by the Department for Infrastructure.
In February 2022, an online petition to the Minister for Infrastructure, calling on her to save Stonebridge from potential damage, received 546 signatures.
A number of formal objection letters were also lodged to the Department for Infrastructure against the proposed Abandonment Order. These objection letters will now be reviewed to decide if the Abandonment proposal should be progressed to the next stage and whether or not there is a need for a public inquiry. Mr Muir has called on the Department to call a Public Inquiry if they decide to proceed with their Abandonment Order.
Local resident and campaigner Louis O’Keeffe commented, ‘This bridge is part of our heritage and is a powerful link to the history of the area therefore it is essential to protect this landmark from the risk of demolition. We have seen a great response to our online petition and a number of formal objection letters have also been lodged with the Department for Infrastructure. It is vital that the Department engages with local residents to find another solution to the future of Stonebridge.'
‘From my research it appears that there are extremely limited mechanisms in place to protect Stonebridge if the proposed Abandonment Order goes ahead. The Council’s Local Development Plan is seemingly our only hope if the Abandonment Order is made, however this is many years away from completion,’ said Mr Muir.
‘I am still waiting on a response from the Minister for Communities who has responsibility for our Built and Industrial Heritage but investigations to date have revealed the bridge cannot be listed or any other similar protection afforded. We cannot be expected to take our chances with an Abandonment Order.
‘I urge the Department to abandon this proposed Abandonment Order and engage with Council over what protections can be granted via the Local Development Plan before this is ever re-considered. Failing that a Public Inquiry must be held to ensure full and proper examination of the issues ensuring local voices are heard. This is an important piece of our local rail heritage and action taken by local residents has demonstrated the desire to keep Stonebridge standing.’
Alliance Party MLA Andrew Muir has said he is ‘extremely concerned’ after a recent announcement by Ulster Bank that a further nine branches in Northern Ireland will close their doors within the next three months including the last Bank left in the Town of Holywood.
Ulster Bank is now part of the NatWest Group and the move comes as the parent company cites, ‘an increased demand for mobile and online services.’
Since the announcement, Mr Muir has been engaging with local Chamber of Commerce groups and the Financial Services Union on the issue and will be writing to the Chair of NatWest Banking Group, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the head of Ulster Bank, highlighting the impact this will have on our local community and asking them to stop these planned closures.
Speaking on the matter Mr Muir said, ‘I am incredibly disappointed to hear of Ulster Bank’s recent announcement to close a further nine Northern Ireland based banks, including the Holywood Ulster Bank Branch. This is a real body blow for people and businesses leaving Holywood without any Bank.’
‘This is now the only bank left open in the town and it will have a significant and detrimental impact upon the town. Whilst there is clearly an increase in the number of people using online banking services, there is still a very real need for a base in our Town Centres that people can easily access, especially those who do not feel comfortable with or are unable to access online banking.’
‘My thoughts are also with those families that will be devastated by this news with compulsory redundancies now on the horizon. Ulster Bank’s decision will have real and serious consequences just at a time when the Cost of Living is rising at an alarming rate. I will continue to engage with all those impacted by this news and reiterate that these planned closures should not go ahead.’
Tuesday, 15 March 2022
With the Cost of Living Crisis hitting homes hard North Down Alliance MP Stephen Farry and MLA Andrew Muir have set out a range of actions that should be taken to help people struggling to meet rising bills with ever increasing energy costs proving crippling for so many.
The Westminster and Stormont representatives have urged the UK Government to intervene coupled with a restored Northern Ireland Executive to lead on delivery of range of immediate initiatives to assist households.
North Down Alliance MLA and Party Finance Spokesperson Andrew Muir commented “With countless people across North Down and beyond struggling to make ends meet we need an Executive in Northern Ireland to deliver assistance desperately required to help relieve the pain being felt by many.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces at the behest of Vladimir Putin is resulting in horrendous loss of life, need for a full and generous humanitarian response and further worsening the Cost of Living pressures felt by millions of homes across Europe and beyond making the need for an urgent response even more critical.
A range of initiatives should be taken locally in Northern Ireland to help families and individuals faced with rocketing household bills. A Home Heating Support Grant to supplement both the Winter Fuel Payment scheme and recent Energy Payment Support Scheme should be delivered utilising some of the £300million sitting idle due to the lack of an Executive. Assistance of HMRC is crucial to ensure it is targeted not just at those in receipt of benefits but also low income households, who are suffering a massive impact from rising energy costs.
A Child Payment Scheme to protect children in already vulnerable circumstances should also be launched providing a per child weekly payment for any family with children in receipt of Free School Meals plus for pre-school age children in low income households.
With the highest percentage of homes using heating oil in Western Europe Home Heating Oil should be brought within the remit of the Utility Regulatory, ensuring price transparency for consumers, bringing this market in line with gas and electricity.
A much more ambitious, generous and faster roll out of energy efficiency grant schemes must also take place with attic and cavity wall installation more widely available to reduce household energy use alongside investment in renewable energy sources of the future including Hydrogen”
Stephen Farry MP added:
"Current Government plans are for Universal Credit and other benefits are to rise at 3.1% in April. But this was the inflation rate last September. However, inflation is forecasted to hit between 6-7%. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation anticipates that, based on the Government’s current plans, nine million low-income families, both in work and out of work, would experience a real terms cut of £500 a year, while pensioner couples would lose £540 a year. This is in addition to the recent cut to incomes of households on universal credit, when the £20 a week top-up was withdrawn.
“Furthermore, the National Insurance hike that was announced by the Government is a regressive tax. It wasn't justified then, and is really challenging now.
"I have written to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Financial Statement asking for both of these to be reconsidered in light of the Ukraine crisis and the much greater cost of living crisis.”
North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir raised St Anne’s Primary Schools’ bid for transformation to integrated status with the Education Minister this week during Question Time at The Assembly.
Parents of children at St Anne’s recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of transformation to integration in a parental ballot. A timeline for the next steps of the process is now being put together by the Education Authority and Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE).
|Andrew Muir MLA at St Anne’s |
Primary School Donaghadee
Commenting on the issue Mr Muir said “I warmly welcome the proposals for the transformation of St Anne’s Primary School to integrated status and will be supporting the school in any way I can as it goes on the journey through this process.”
“I was keen to ascertain from the Minister what she was doing to assess both pupil and parental preference in the area in the context of the recent vote. Given the overwhelming vote of confidence from existing parents and the demand for further provision of integrated school places in general in Northern Ireland, it is important that the Department take into consideration the real likelihood that demand for places will increase substantially in the years ahead.”
“It is currently a small school but with many more families choosing Donaghadee as a place to live I am confident the years ahead would see a marked increase in enrolment especially if the school is successful in its bid for transformation to integration.”
“It is still early days but I was delighted the Minister accepted my invitation to visit the school to meet with parents and the school leadership to discuss the its future in the years ahead.”
Official Report: Tuesday 25 January 2022
St Anne’s Primary School, Donaghadee: Integrated Status
T2. Mr Muir asked the Minister of Education, in the context of the decision by parents to recently overwhelmingly support a proposal for St Anne’s Primary School, Donaghadee to transform to integrated status, which he warmly welcomes, what she is doing to assess parental and pupil preference in the area. (AQT 1972/17-22)
Miss McIlveen: I thank the Member for his question. I was very privileged to be able to visit St Anne's Primary School before Christmas, and I got a very warm welcome, I have to say. The Member will understand that there is also a development proposal for St Anne's that makes it very difficult for me to comment, as I may be the ultimate decision maker for it. However, I am very mindful that a ballot for transformation was supported by the parents. I understand that the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education (NICIE) and the Education Authority are working together closely on a timeline for the work that will need to take place post the ballot.
Mr Muir: I thank the Minister for her response. Donaghadee is a growing town with many new houses, and families are choosing it as a place to live. An integrated primary school in the town would be a great development. Will the Minister accept my invitation to meet parents and the school leadership in order to discuss the school and the future for it in Donaghadee?
Miss McIlveen: I am more than happy to do that.
|Andrew Muir MLA asking question to |
North Down Alliance MLA Andrew Muir raised the long awaited and much delayed Queen’s Parade development with the Infrastructure Minister in the Assembly on Monday 28 February, on the same day he was informed by Minister Mallon that the Planning Application is top of the list in being held by the Department for the longest period compared to all others at 52 weeks.
Commenting on the development, Andrew Muir MLA stated “The foot dragging, dither and delay from the Department for Infrastructure over the long overdue and much awaited regeneration of Queen’s Parade is scandalous.
The scale of delay is strongly illustrated by the shocking statistic that Queen’s Parade is the longest delayed planning application across whole of Northern Ireland when it comes to those subject to a holding direction where the Department and intervened and halted Council issuing planning approval.
Whilst I welcome the Minister’s response to my question in the Assembly Chamber that matters are being finalised and a decision due as soon as possible sadly we’ve heard all this before. I’ve a large file of letters urging the Minister to act and only recently met with Minister Mallon urging progress but things are sadly moving as slow as a snail. The procrastination, stalling and playing for time has to stop. The Minister must intervene and let Council proceed and give approval now, the people of Bangor should not be told to wait one day longer”.
Assembly Question response concerning planning applications subject to a holding direction attached.
Official Report: Monday 28 February 2022
Mr Muir: Last year, your Department put a hold on Ards and North Down Borough Council's giving approval for the Queen's Parade development in Bangor. We are still waiting, 13 months later. When will you, as Minister, intervene, give the green light for that to go ahead and lift the holding direction that has been imposed on Ards and North Down Borough Council?
Ms Mallon: The Member and I have met to discuss that issue. He will be aware of the work that has been ongoing between my Department, the council and other key stakeholders to try to make progress. The holding direction was issued by my Department in February last year, and it is in place. The assessment of the notification is being finalised. It is my intention to respond to the council as soon as possible with a decision as to whether the application should be referred to my Department for determination. I assure you that I am mindful of the importance of reaching a decision on the matter and avoiding any unnecessary delays.