Portavoe reservoir: Campaigners seek legal block on draining of lake after wildlife starts dying
Protesters worried about the environmental impact of a North Down reservoir being drained are to seek a judicial review at Belfast High Court.
Public concern for wildlife after NI Water began work at the small Portavoe reservoir, between Groomsport and Donaghadee, is now so high that protesters are seeking to have it suspended or stopped.
Friends of Portavoe are holding a public meeting this week in Groomsport, and there has already been a token demonstration at the Town Hall in Bangor before the monthly council meeting.
The Portavoe beauty spot, which is popular with walkers and wildlife enthusiasts, has been at the centre of concerns after work to drain it began last month.
Visitors became alarmed when they noticed that water levels were dropping dramatically over a number of days. While an operation was in place to help fish in the water, fresh water clams were exposed and left to die along the water's edge.
Protesters organised themselves into a group after dead fish and birds were discovered in the area, including 15 cormorants, thought to have been poisoned having eaten dead clams exposed as the water level fell.
North Down councillor Austen Lennon said he fully supported the group.
"I would encourage an urgent judicial review being sought to stop the death that is happening here," he said.
"Everyone involved is very frustrated. We get passed from department to department and they say they have carried out all the necessary checks. I have written to the minister concerned (Regional Development Minister) Danny Kennedy. They (NI Water) have clearly made a mistake in what they have done at this time of year during breeding season."
Ulster Wildlife has also entered the debate with a spokesman highlighting the impact on birds.
"Portavoe is an important habitat for birds and we share the concern that visitors have about the draining of the reservoir taking place at the worst time of year, as breeding season is well under way. At this stage, it may be too late to reverse any negative impact that this work could have," he said.
When concerns were first raised about the draining of Portavoe, NI Water said it was not on the market. However, it later confirmed that it was indeed planning to sell it off.
NI Water will try to transfer ownership within the public sector, before offering the site for sale on the open market.
NI Water has consistently said it "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".