Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Councils team up to fight reservoir sale

North Down council is to join forces with Ards Borough Council to investigate NI Water’s “fast track” sale of a local reservoir.

The decision to set up a council working group “to thwart” the sale of Portavo reservoir near Groomsport, was a result of a public meeting held last Thursday (January 19) at the Marine Court hotel.

Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir who organised the event said: “Over 100 people attended my public meeting to discuss NI Water’s plans to flog seven reservoirs across north Down. Representatives from the Ulster Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust provided information followed by an extensive discussion.

“People were shocked to hear that NI Water plan to sell reservoirs on the open market with many calling upon them to halt their sale plans forthwith, especially in relation to Portavo Reservoir, near Groomsport, which is scheduled for sale during 2011/12.

“I echo these calls and urge NI Water to withdraw their sale plans. This would allow people and organisations to explore how the reservoirs can enjoy a brighter future in the hands of people who care rather than allowing them to be sold to the highest bidder on the open market.

“I find it scandalous that NI Water are prepared to contemplate selling these reservoirs whilst many homes across Northern Ireland were recently without water,” added Mr Muir.

“The water crisis must have a significant bearing on the mind of NI Water and convince the organisation that sell-offs are the last thing people need.”

Independent councillor Austen Lennon said: “The maintenance of these reservoirs is everybody’s top priority — there are lots of homes at risk of flood damage in the surrounding areas.

“We have to protect the reservoirs and ensure their maintenance not only in relation to flood risks, but to also guarantee the wildlife and natural habitat they hold are not destroyed by speed boats and jet-skis that could be employed on the reservoirs by the new owners.

“£2.1 million was spent on specialist equipment to filter Ballysallagh reservoir a couple of years ago— but it was only used to filter the water for six months and now it has been left sitting there, and they want to sell off that reservoir. What a waste of money.”

A spokesperson from NI Water said: “We welcome the opportunity to meet with local representatives and are keen to share the information given to Mr Muir in regard to our intentions with regard to the disposal of assets, including reservoirs now out of service.

“NI Water wishes to dispel the impression that there is anything unusual with the disposal of NI Water land and assets, the details of which are continually updated and published in our Annual Land Disposal Register

“We can confirm that all of the reservoirs in question are no longer required for future use, due to a rationalisation of water supply to the North Down area. NI Water has a clear policy which outlines the steps which must be taken when disposing of land, in compliance with normal practice for asset disposal in the Public sector.” A ‘Save Our Reservoir’ petition will soon be available to sign online at www.andrewmuir.net

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