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Down beauty spot Cairn Wood wins reprieve from auction block

By Linda Stewart

Published 27/01/2016

Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen
Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen

A popular north Down walking spot which had been put on the market has won a last-minute reprieve.

There had been public anger over the planned sale of Cairn Wood, which had part of a plot for sale including Ballysallagh Upper reservoir.

The reservoir is one of a number of sites which NI Water intends to dispose of because it is no longer in use.

More than 2,700 people had signed a petition launched by Councillor Andrew Muir calling for Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen to remove the popular North Down walking spot from the sale of Ballysallagh Upper Reservoir.

But the minister last night announced that she has put the sale of the Ballysallagh Upper reservoir on hold as Forest Service has expressed a strong interest in buying the site. "I am aware of the local interest in the disposal of the Ballysallagh Upper reservoir and the adjacent land at Cairn Wood," Michelle McIlveen said.

"It is a popular recreational site for local people and I have always been keen to ensure that the public continues to have access once the sale was completed.

"NI Water did seek expressions of interest from the public sector, including the local council, in relation to the sale - however, none were received. I am very pleased to say that the Forest Service has now expressed a strong interest in purchasing this site. Therefore in line with guidance on the disposal of assets, sale on the open market will no longer be pursued while this interest is explored.

"I am hopeful that this development will enable the reservoir and lands to remain within public ownership and ensure that the general public will continue to have access to the woodland."

A spokesman for Forest Service said: "Forest Service, which has been managing trees on the NIW land under management arrangements since 1978, has written to NIW confirming its interest in a potential transfer of ownership of the land to DARD.

"Forest Service is required to complete a business case that supports a transfer, and to engage the necessary processes that govern any asset transfer between departments ."

Last night Councillor Muir had proposed a motion for Ards and North Down Borough Council to investigate acquiring the woodland. The council had previously rejected a motion to carry out economic appraisals with a view to acquiring the overall Ballysallagh Upper reservoir plot.

Concerns had been raised that the site could be sold within weeks. Walkers feared Cairn Wood could be developed or they could lose access to the woodland.

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