Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chair of Planning

At the recent Annual General Meeting of North Down Borough Council I was appointed as Chair of the Planning and Public Services Liaison Committee. Having spent 4 years as Chair of Policy and gained a wealth of experience on Policy related matters it was useful to move to Planning.

Planning takes up a great deal of my life. I have experienced so many decisions made by the Planning Service, while they follow their policies, to a mere resident of the Borough their decisions are at times incomprehensible.

We have had beautiful old Victoria houses demolished and replace by multiple dwellings, we have had back garden development just about every where in the Borough, we have had apartments where there have never been apartments. A number of our villages with an old world charm and character are slowly being eroded. Residents and Councillors have fought against proposals but it always appears that the residents are the ones who don't count.

I have no problem with moving forward and some of the developments and apartments have greatly added to the areas where they have been build.

My greatest fear is that the Planning Service have a phrase 'each application is taken on its own individual merit' in other words they look at the application but not what is surrounding it. Also another favourite term of the planning Service is that a house can be 2 1/2 stories in height, however to my simple mind if there are stairs and living accommodation to the 1/2 storey the house is 3 storey, but perhaps that too simple an equation.

We also have the term 'culumative effect' but it counts for little as far as I am concerned. If one block of apartments is allowed or 1 house knocked down and 4 built in its place I have watched this 'culumative effect' slowly moving across Bangor, with one set of over development follwing another.

When giving the opinion of 'approval' to a development and I query what Roads Servicce have commented - the answer is usually 'in principle they ahve no problems' - what a wonderful non phrase.

My total frustration is that the resident - the one who is objecting, is generally the one whose views matter least.

Councillors have littel or no tools to fight the Planning Service with and it is about time that the MLA's had a close look at the Planning Service and some of the decisions made. We cannot wait until 2012 - by then North Down will be lost in a field of concrete and bricks.


As one of the local co-ordinators for the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme in Bangor West I issue a news sheet about every 3 months to local residents. In my July sheet which covered a number of subjects, one sections was devoted on advice to give peace of mind whil away from your home.


Advice on making your home more secure while you are away.
· Make your home look like it’s occupied. Use automatic timer switches to turn lights on when it gets dark.
· Cancel milk and newspaper deliveries.
· Avoid discussing holiday plans where strangers may hear details of your absence from home.
· Tidy your garden before you go and trim back any plants that obscure the view to your house.
· Remove valuable items from view, place documents and valuables in a safe, if you have one.
· Ask a neighbour to keep an eye on your property. Have them remove post and leave a contact number for them in the case of emergency.
· Do not put your home address on your luggage when your are traveling to your holiday destination.
· Remember to lock all outside doors and windows and if you have a burglar alarm, make sure it is set.
Finally, just before you leave spend a couple of minutes checking that you have done all you can to secure your property.
If you require any further Crime Prevention advice please contact
Const. Susan Farr, 02891801646 for the Ards and North Down areas.

Oil Spillage in Local Beauty Spot

An oil spillage occured leaving Crawfordsurn and the surrounding area smelling of oil The spillage travelled down the local stream into a pond in the middle of the local park, killing wildlife around the pound.

I was alerted on Thursday morning and immediately contacted the Town Hall who swung into action, the NIEnvironmental Agency men were on the sight within hours and spent many days trying to clean up the mess. They erected a boom across the river however unfortunately the heavy rains caused the boom to overspill however, the boom was raised and several others installed.

This was an environmental disaster, wanton and unnecessary and I condemn anyone who carried out such a callous action. There was a scum covering the river and pond and the stench was disguisting.

I give credit to the men who worked continously from the NIEA they did their very best to contain the oil. I only hope that the effects of this spillage on one of the most beautiful areas of our Borough can be overcome and the ill effects quickly made good.

Don't Park in Disabled Bays

Motoristswho abuse the disabled parking bays at the local Community Hospital and health centre face having their vehicles clamped.

This warning has been issued by the local Trust and supported by myself as Chair of the Friends of Bangor Community Hospital. The parking in disabled bays at both these centres has been utterly abused with little thought to those who really need the reserved places. I have appealed to everyone using the car parks take a little time and patience in where you park. I have seen cars parked in the spaces reserved for ambulances and doctors with cars also almost right up the to the front door of the hospital. This is uncaring and unthoughtful, there have been so many complaints by disabled badge holders visiting the hosptial and Bangor Health cetnre the Trust may be compelled to resort to a clamping operation.

The message is give yourself time when going to the Community Hospital or Health Centre and do not deprive a badge carrier of a disabled parking bay.

Fight to Achieve Safer Road Conditions

For many years now I have along with residents of Crawfordsburn and the local Primary School been calling on the Roads Service to install some form of traffic calming measurers near the school on the busy Cootehall Road.

I have already achieved red road marking but have highlighted to Roads that these are too far apart and should be nearer the school.

Having met with the Chief Executive of the South Eastern Education and Library Board, the Roads Service, the PSNI and the school Principal I am seeking to find an answer to this problem. With the increase of school numbers and traffic speeding along this busy road I have asked the Roads Service to install flashing safety signs, have the sight lines improved at the school and adjustments made inside the school gates to receive some of the traffic. None of this is an impossibility.

There has been a degree of movement and I am hopeful that the improvements which are very necessary will take place sooner rather than later. This is a problem involving young promary school children and simply cannot be shuffled from one department to another. The PSNI, the Roads Service and the SEELB are all very aware of what is necessary and I aim to make sure that safety measurers take place on this busy road.

Bangor Rotary Club helps Hospital Friends

Bangor Rotary Club has donated £5000 to the Friends of Bangor Community Hospital. On behalf of the Club the President Stephen Connolly made the donation which was gratefully received. The money purchased a portable blood machine for the respiratory team at the Community Hospital.

On accepting the generous presentation, as Chair of the group, I thanked the Bangor Rotary Club once again for their generousity. I highlighted that this again showed that the Community Hospital was exactly that - a hospital held in high esteem by the community who have over the past 10 years helped in so many ways providing much needed comforts and equipment.

Reassurance over X-Ray breakdown

The X ray machine at Bangor Community Hospital had been out of order for a short period and much was made of this by some local politicians. However, had they simply contacted the Trust they would have been given a clear answer to their worries.

The machine did have a major break down in December, however ordering and installing a complicated piece of equipment such as this is not an overnight job. The new machine was ordered and the room, which contains the X Ray machine, was re-painted with a new floor being laid.

The new machine is an improvement having a table which can be lowered to the ground enabling patients who have mobility problems use it with greater ease.

During the few months the Community Hospital was without an X-ray department patients were directed to the Ards Hospital where waiting time was no more than 5 – 10 minutes. Having had experience of travelling to Ards and needing an X-ray I can only compliment the staff of both hospitals, I have never found them to be anything but helpful, kind and most considerate.

The imagining service was up and running in April.

As Chair of the Friends of Bangor Community Hospital, I welcome the upgrading of the machine and room and have assured everyone that the Trust had apologised for the inconvenience caused by the unforeseen occurrence.