I am really pleased to present this petition, which calls for the reconsideration of the proposed development of the Belmont Road on a site alongside the banks of the Sixmilewater river. The petition contains 1,047 signatures today and is, I am told, still live and now has 1,182 signatures. I thank Stevie Munn, a game angling consultant, and the Six Mile Water Trust and its colleagues, who pulled the petition together. They highlighted the key issues, and I have enjoyed working with them since I entered politics. Sadly, this matter has arisen at election time, and I hope that it can be resolved by all the politicians in the area working together into the future.
The valley and the river are just on the outskirts of Antrim, and a wonderful council-planned mill race trail runs along the riverbanks and is incredibly popular with locals as an area of natural beauty, for angling, for countryside walks and for nature. It really should be protected and preserved. It should be part of a tourist trail and a tourism strategy — if we had one — in Northern Ireland that promotes our country sports and countryside. We should keep in mind that, in Ireland, angling alone contributes €755 million to the economy.
We all know that the Sixmilewater has often been appallingly badly polluted, and, indeed, in 2008, there was great flooding after heavy rainfall. The blockages around the bridges and other pinch points led to appalling flooding in people's houses. We still have ongoing insurance problems. We should keep that in mind when we look at the petition and the plan.
The present plan is to develop 400 houses beside the river, with a 10-metre buffer — that is all — with no recognition of the needs of the wildlife, including the otters, the dippers, the dollaghan and many others. That all needs to be studied properly and accurately in an environmental statement. That should be carried out so that we know all the issues.
The application was validated just after the new super-councils began, so it should be subject to the new local area plan when it is created and should take into account all the community's views before any decision is made. I hope that the Minister will confirm that that is the case and that previous area plans are now redundant. I also hope that DRD and DARD will look into the issues that are relevant to them. The development should either not happen at all or should be completely rethought. It is the test on the whole of our new planning system. Thank you.
Mr Kinahan moved forward and laid the petition on the Table.