The ‘legal hold up’ in the controversial sale of Portavo reservoir has been welcomed by the local community.
Last week, MP Lady Sylvia Hermon received correspondence from Bill Gowdy, NI Water’s acting director of engineering and procurement, confirming that “due to some minor outstanding legal issues which need to be resolved”, NI Water has decided to defer placing Portavo on the open market in this financial year.
Lady Hermon said: “Whilst I obviously welcome the additional breathing space for Portavo in terms of its proposed sale, I’m intrigued and a bit mystified by Mr Gowdy’s acknowledgement that this stay of execution “may provide an opportunity for interested parties to discuss the various options surrounding its sale”.
“If all of us, who so strongly oppose the disposal of several of North Down’s reservoirs, including Portavo, are stymied by NI Water in our efforts to prevent such disposals, I cannot help but wonder whether, in light of Mr Gowdy’s words, we should actively canvass the RSPB and/or the National Trust to acquire Portavo Reservoir with its beautiful surroundings.
“Meantime, I’m awaiting a response from the DRD Minister Conor Murphy, whom I’ve urged to take our North Down reservoirs off the ‘For Sale’ list, because their disposal could have an adverse impact on our future water supply. We saw all too starkly, during the recent prolonged and very bitter spell of wintry weather, that household water supplies were not secure. We cannot tolerate a repetition of that misery for so many.”
Alliance councillor Andrew Muir who recently launched a number of initiatives including a petition to ‘save our reservoirs’ says the news of the delayed sale coincides with the discovery of a “shocking development”.
Mr Muir said his colleague, north Down MLA Stephen Farry had asked Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew, to outline her responsibilities in relation to regulation of private reservoirs only to find there were no powers are in place to regulate the safety of private reservoirs.
“I am shocked that NI Water were considering the sale of reservoirs such as Portavo when no appropriate legislation is in place to ensure future owners maintain the reservoirs in an appropriate manner to ensure nearby homes aren't flooded in the event of |failure,” he said.
He welcomed the delay in the sale and said he was seeking a meeting with Mr Murphy to discuss how DRD and NI Water intend to proceed. “It is imperative that government takes the lead and ends the uncertainty surrounding the future ownership of the reservoirs.”