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Wildlife haven at North Down reservoir put up for sale after lake drained by Northern Ireland Water

A North Down reservoir at the centre of concerns about its wildlife after it was drained is to be sold off by Northern Ireland Water.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that the Portavoe Reservoir, between Bangor and North Down, is to be put on the market in the next 12 months.

The beauty spot, which is popular with walkers and wildlife enthusiasts, has been at the centre of concerns after work began to drain it last month.

Visitors to the area became alarmed when they noticed that water levels began to drop dramatically over a number of days. While an operation was in place to help fish in the water, fresh water clams were being exposed and left to die along the water's edge.

Water levels continued to drop and NI Water confirmed it intended to drain the reservoir completely to carry out maintenance.

The work being carried out is to refurbish a valve at the reservoir which is described as essential health and safety maintenance.

When asked last week if the water was being lowered as part of preparations to sell the out of use reservoir, NI Water would only say: "This reservoir is not presently on the market."

When pressed further by the Belfast Telegraph, NI Water has now clarified that the reservoir is indeed to be sold.

An official said: "The reservoir at Portavoe is no longer in service and has been declared surplus to requirements. NI Water has a statutory obligation to dispose of surplus assets."

Portavoe Reservoir has been identified for disposal during the 2014-15 financial year. NI Water will try to transfer ownership within the public sector, before offering the site for sale on the open market.

North Down councillor Austin Lennon expressed his outrage at the situation.

"You can see that the wildlife is an after-thought.

"It appears they have finally consulted with the Environment Agency but too late. The most serious issue is the fact that there is no mention of the bird breeding situation," he said.

NI Water said: "NI Water has been liaising with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency with regards to lowering the level of Portavoe Reservoir for essential maintenance work, and is taking their advice on an appropriate environmental approach.

"NIW also proposed that a proportion of live mussels are collected and held within tanks for reseeding post works."

Belfast Telegraph