Amanda Grehan is the Alliance Party councillor for Lisburn South.
Amanda Grehan is the Alliance Party councillor for Lisburn South.
Alliance Councillor Amanda Grehan has welcomed a ban on so-called ‘legal highs’, after the Psychoactive Substances Act received royal assent in recent days.
The Act – due to be implemented from spring this year – will prohibit the production, supply and importation of these potentially dangerous drugs, often incorrectly called ‘legal highs’, with offenders facing up to seven years in prison.
Councillor Amanda Grehan said: “Banning these substances is a very welcome move to protect our young people. They are often produced and packaged in back street garages with no controls on hygiene or what actually goes into the packages.
“Tests on packages found in Northern Ireland have shown the same brand name to regularly contain different ingredients. This can lead users to take more when they do not get the same effect as previously, and overdosing can result.
“We have seen too many of our young people become ill, or tragically die following use of these products. The people producing or selling these substances are only interested in making money and have no concern for the users.
“I have previously highlighted this issue in the Council Chamber and I applaud the efforts of the Alliance Justice Minister David Ford MLA, who has worked closely with the Home Office to have this new law enacted. As a mother, I am pleased that another potential danger will be removed from our streets.”
Whist I have some sympathy with the Education Minister’s problems, several recent decisions fly in the face of stated ministerial priorities and obligations.
The decision on Drumragh Integrated College ignores the stated obligation to “facilitate and encourage” integrated education, to allow successful and popular schools to expand and the principle of parental choice.
In the High Court last year, the Department stated that in future, consent of other schools would not be required for a proposal to be granted, area school enrolments should not override the statutory obligation to integrated education, yet this is exactly what the Minister says lies behind his decision.
The education of our children together is a vital component of any shared future agenda, but it appears the Minister still has difficulty accepting this simple premise or honouring his legal duty in this area.
Clintyclay Primary School is trying to make history as the first Catholic maintained school to transform to Integrated status and despite the opposition of CCMS and the Department, Mr Justice Treacy has upheld their judicial review of the Department’s refusal to allow them to do so. Will the Department appeal this decision? I sincerely hope not, but who knows?
Primary school language tuition is regarded worldwide as valuable to children, this has been recognised by the Department by supplementary funding for many years, but now without warning this support has been removed. A vital front line service (these are supposed to be protected) being discontinued to the disadvantage of our kids against those from other countries, and to Northern Irelands long term ability to compete for business.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are a priority for the Department, to equip our children for their futures in employment and to enable NI PLC to compete for jobs in the world economy. The Ministers response is to cut 50% from the grant to Sentinus who do such valuable and essential work in this field.
Budgetary control is vital to the efficient running of any Department but so is eliminating the costs of a divided society, hence the need to promote integration where parents clearly want it. When budgets are tight the priority must be quality education and the need to equip our children for careers.
By these decisions, the Minister is leaving himself open to the charge of wrong priorities, training too many teachers for too few jobs, Irish Language expansion (which I will support but not at any cost) as well as maintaining segregation.
We await further developments with interest.
The Department for Social Development has announced that £2 million has been made available for the continuation of the Boiler Replacement Scheme. The scheme helps people to replace their existing boilers and will now run until March 2016.
Lisburn South Alliance Councillor Amanda Grehan welcomed the department’s decision; “Replacing inefficient boilers will not only help individuals and families to reduce their energy costs but also improve their health and general well-being through living in a warmer home.
“Homeowners earning less than £40000 gross income with a boiler 15 years old or more are eligible to apply for the scheme. This scheme has been very successful to date with 18, 500 boiler replacements and I would encourage anyone who is eligible to contact the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who administers the scheme.”
The former Maghaberry Airfield site is set to be given a new lease of life with the unveiling of plans for a proposed solar farm. The proposed development is set to produce enough energy to power 6440 households saving nearly 11 000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.
Local Alliance councillor Amanda Grehan said “This is a tremendous opportunity for a much needed positive development in the area. For too long Northern Ireland has been left behind in the development of green energy sources. However, we now have the chance to learn from what has happened elsewhere, to deliver renewable energy supplies without any disruption to residents or wildlife.
“I particularly welcome the commitment from the developer, through their biodiversity management plan, to protect and encourage wildlife through the use of native plants in hedgerows, seed-rich areas, log piles as well as bird and bat boxes. The underground cabling and absorption of daylight by the panels means the overall landscape would be largely unaffected.”
Councillor Aaron McIntyre added “The protection of mature trees and ‘strong points’ of the former airfield will help maintain the current landscape and protect the heritage of the site for future generations. The solar farm is specially designed for grazing by small livestock including sheep and chickens. This will enable the land to be productive in the produce of food stuff as well as local renewable energy.”
Councillor Grehan concluded “This is a significant opportunity for the local area and there are no doubt further potential sites throughout Northern Ireland. It is important we proceed carefully but quickly with such projects.”
Councillor Stephen Martin has welcomed a commitment by the Council to carry out clean up works on a Council owned wooded area near to the scene of a recent fatality on the Hillsborough Road in Lisburn.
A local resident contacted Councillor Martin with concerns that if something wasn’t done a similar incident could result from overgrown trees on land owed by the Council on the same stretch of road.
Councillor Stephen Martin stated ‘Following representations, the Council have confirmed that the necessary works are due to start on Sunday 8 February and continue for up to 4 Sundays with partial road closures expected from 7am until midday on each of those days.’
‘While it might prove temporarily inconvenient, we can’t allow the tragedy that took place a few weeks ago to pass without making certain any potential risks in the area within our control are managed.’
‘I want to thank the concerned resident who highlighted the matter and all the diligent Environmental Services staff involved in progressing this issue so quickly.’
Councillor Stephen Martin has secured the repair of a litter bin at Woodland Park bus stop following complaints from local residents.
Councillor Martin stated ‘As soon as the issue was brought to my attention, I called out to see firsthand the damage. The bin has broken open at its base and as a result rubbish had spilled over the footpath causing real difficulties for pedestrians and commuters.’
‘Council officers responded immediately and I am delighted a problem that could have went unreported was nipped in the bud very quickly due to quick actions of both the residents and council staff.’
‘I can not stress how important it is to report such issues to the Council so that would could end up being a significant health and safety issue is dealt with promptly.’
In light of the worsening traffic situation in Moira I welcome our MP’s renewed attention to the problem.
However, as the long-time campaigner Neil Johnston has found, it takes more than a sporadic effort to get anything done.
To honour a promise made during the last local government election campaign, I have set up a petition to obtain 5,000 signatures to be delivered to Stormont. The petition is available at www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/moiraneedsabypass; it went live on 22nd September and has gained pace this week, approaching 400 signatures in just 4 days. The paper version I am presenting door to door each week has also gained around 100 with just a few hours work so far.
My thanks to all who have signed so far, and I would encourage people of every shade of political opinion to sign the petition as this is for everyone’s benefit. If anyone prefers the paper version or has concerns to air, I can be contacted via the local Alliance office on 92671177
Speaking after a meeting of Lisburn City Council Planning Committee at which senior Housing Executive staff made a presentation, Alliance Party Councillor Brian Dornan welcomed the commitment of the NIHE Chief Executive, Mags Lightbody, to improving services for older people.
Councillor Dornan had commended the work of the Housing Executive and housing associations in making it possible for older people to continue to live in a home of their own rather than having to move to a care home but called for more innovation.
“Relatively simple services can be the key to making older people feel supported and less anxious”, he said. “Examples of what people would welcome are having a bag of rubbish collected from the door of their flat, and simple repairs such as lightbulb replacement. These tasks can be a worry and a problem for older people who may not have a lot of family help. Such services cost very little but mean a lot.”
Ms Lightbody had explained to the Committee that she had experience in a Scottish local authority of working in a joint housing and social services department. She would do all she could to encourage close working together of housing and health and social services. She agreed on the importance of services such as Councillor Dornan had suggested and said that she would be encouraging such developments by housing associations.
Alliance Party Councillor
Lisburn City Council
Speaking after the Lisburn City Council Planning Committee meeting on Monday 2nd September, Alliance Party Councillor Brian Dornan said that he had been amazed at a most unusual response by unionist Councillors to the request of concerned residents of Richmond Drive and Richmond Mews to meet with planners about a planning application.
At the request of a number of residents Councillor Dornan had relayed their concerns to the Committee and the Senior Planning Officer had offered a meeting on Wednesday 10th September “in the interests of fairness”. Previously 21 letters of objection had been submitted. Concerns included the height of the houses and fences, adjacent as they were to bungalows.
“DUP and Unionist Councillors used their majority to vote to block the Planning Officer’s offer of a meeting”, said Councillor Dornan. “This included North Lisburn Councillors who should have respected their constituents’ wish for the meeting with planners. I have never observed such cavalier disregard for the rights of residents to have their concerns heard and such determination to achieve an instant decision in favour of a development. I am at a loss to understand how waiting until next week to allow residents to have their meeting was too much to ask.”
Independent Councillor John Drake had supported Councillor Dornan’s request.
Alliance Party Councillor
Lisburn City Council