Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Seat Belts in Buses for All School Pupils

Ards Borough Council recently asked North Down Borough Council for their support in calling for seat belts to be fitted on all buses carrying school pupils.

I fully agree and if you think of it, and you had anyone let alone a child travelling in your car and they had not put their seat belts on – you would probably be fined. Why should bus companies not have similar legislation? If a car crashes up to 4 people would be injured if a bus crashes approximately 50 odd people could be injured. Pupils can at times be seen standing, as the buses are so crowded.

This is something which cannot be ignored and has been shelved much too often simply because there were not the funds to implement such a scheme.

The time has come when, in the interests of child safety legislation be changed to require all school buses be fitted with seat belts, which means only children sitting on a seat and belted must be provided by the Government to enable these changes to be implemented without affecting Education Board budgets.
The funding given by the Department of Education to the area Boards does not take into consideration seat belts for children.

Keep Our Sea Rescue Centre Open

I have proposed that North Down Borough Council write to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and express in the strongest possible terms this Council’s lack of confidence in their apparent proposal to close Bregenz House Maritime and Rescue Centre.
Also in my proposal – we write to Shaun Woodward the Minister for Public Services, again in the strongest terms possible this centre must not be closed.
I stressed that as a Council we must support the local staff who do a 365 days a year service for Northern Ireland – the service they provide is essential.
Bregenz House centre must not be down graded nor at worst closed.
We promote ourselves as N I’s Maritime Borough, our Borough runs alongside a coastline. The sea is very much part of our lives and the Maritime and Rescue Centre at Bregenz House has a central role in all of this.
As a Council we must highlight that the service is essential, it is a lifesaver, and lives at sea must not in any way be put in jeopardy by such a proposal.
The proposal was accepted by Council.

Field of Hope at Connor Park

North Down leads the way in Fields of Hope and that is something to be very proud of.

I recently met with Mr Beaney, Council Officer and Mr Phil Kane from Marie Curie at Connor Park in Bangor West, with a view to establishing a Field of Hope in the area.

The Council will prepare the field, and at the moment have agreed to provide bulbs, as well as the 30000 from Marie Curie, the local school children at Grange Park Primary School are delighted to become involved. Some of the residents at Kensington Park, along with the Bangor West Conservation Group have also asked to be part of the day’s planting.

As part of the Hope theme Marie Curie are sending a daffidol bulb to many, and I know these bulbs would be planted in many homes, different places or Connor Park with a great deal of love.

Many patients at the Marie Curie Centre come from our postcode areas, as do their nurses.

The Field of Hope Day for Conor Park is planned for 4th November.

I was delighted that my fellow Councillors supported my recommendation.

Are Residents Views Taken Into Consideration?

Arising from an issue at Tuesday evening's planning schedule meeting, a discussion took place on the proposed placing of a mobile phone mast at Kerr's Wood on the Crawfordsburn Road. I stated that, I am not against mobile phone masts – they are almost an essential part of modern day life. They have been used in many emergencies, e.g. the train derailment in Co Antrim and more recently the pictures taken by mobile phones in London have given the police evidence and information.

However at the site meeting for a proposed phone mast with associated equipment of 3 cabinets at Kerr’s Wood on the footpath of Crawfordsburn Road, residents were very concerned just how close this was going to be to nearby houses.

At the site meeting a number of issues were raised and it was requested and agreed that O2 would carry out a Radio Frequency Radiation Survey. Also, at the meeting I got the impression that the area of reception was fairly short and quite a number of masts would be necessary for mobile phones.

I have formally requested that the Radiation Survey for the area be carried out and that 02 provide Councillors with a map of the Borough with present and proposed masts shown. I would also like to see a map with all masts highlighted, as Councillors we seem to be looking at these requests every month.

The Road Service and the Planning Service agree to the placement of masts and at the site meeting, the residents realised that the 300m area the Council have as a policy on mobile phone masts as a distance from houses, carries little weight.

Phone masts are necessary to enable a mobile phone service to operate, but people simply do not want these placed near their homes, and I totally agree with them. Like many issues within the planning service, residents’ feelings and considerations appear to play little or no part in decision-making. I feel very strongly that their views must be considered and not simply meetings arranged with the view of some – ‘lets have this site meeting and then do what we want.’

Stinging cuts on Planning

Lord Rooker Environment Minister has announced stinging cuts on the role a councillor plays in seeking site meetings for an on behalf of residents.
He says that the action will not lessen or weaken the essential role council consultation plays in the planning process and confirms that views of councils will be taken into account - rubbish.
My problems is that when an application is submitted and the planning service announce that application in the smallest possible print in the local newspapers. They do not notify everyone and it left to councillors phoning around to let people know about a particular site meeting. This is often the first communication they have on something which is often very important to them.
He even I understand is saying site meetings will be held in an office rather than at proposed development sites. This is absolute nonsense, it is very important that meetings are held on site, at a recent site meeting we had to go into the neighbours garden and then into his home to see just how badly he was going to be affected by an approved planning decision.
Site meetings are exactly what they say it is when neighbours can discuss plan, and quite often amendments are agreed. Why is it always the nearby neighbour who is penalised and suffers. Some of the decisions I have seen made by the planning service leave me totally perplexed. I have sat with residents crying and upset, I have seen them made quite ill, and I have seen building approved which are little less than carbuncles in the area.
Now we have Lord Rooker, denying the residents and councillors the use of deferment more than once and then it must be for planning reasons, obviously the milk of human kindness has left the system."