Roe Valley Country Park

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:30 pm on 13th April 2021.

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Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP 12:30 pm, 13th April 2021

3. Mr Robinson asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for an update on the completion of his Department's project at the Roe Valley Country Park. (AQO 1836/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My officials have confirmed that there is no further update at this time, following the information provided pursuant to AQW 10099/17-22 and the Member's freedom of information request, DAERA/20-334, which was received on 12 December. My officials have again confirmed that the project, which relates to the reinstatement of the hydroelectric scheme at Roe Valley Country Park, cannot be completed until permission is granted by an adjacent landowner for access to their lands in order to allow works to proceed. As previously advised, departmental officials have confirmed that a comprehensive proposal has already been made to that adjacent landowner through their legal representatives. Whilst officials have been notified that the landowner in question considered that proposal unacceptable, departmental officials still await details of what elements of the existing proposal they object to. The landowner concerned is aware of that. To date, no further contact has been received by officials from the landowner, or an appointed legal representative, regarding those details.

Photo of George Robinson George Robinson DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. I fully appreciate that there is a long-running difficulty with the project. It has caused the adjacent landowner great physical and mental distress since 2013, and, according to information received through the landowner's request under freedom of information, it has cost the taxpayer a lot of money. In the interests of everyone, will the Minister undertake to see whether a speedy resolution can be found to bring this worthy project to a conclusion? Would it be acceptable to have a site meeting or an online meeting with departmental officials, the landowner, the Minister and me?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I cannot give the Member an answer to his last question, because the issue is being dealt with through the Departmental Solicitor's Office, and the landowner has their legal advisers. I am not unwilling to do it, but we will await advice on it. I recognise that it is a worthy project, and it is one that we want to take forward, but we need the cooperation of the landowner. If the landowner has issues, we need to identify what those issues are and see whether we can reach agreement with the individual.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Social Democratic and Labour Party

The intrinsic value of our country parks, open spaces and forests has been amplified over the past year. Will the Minister commit his Department to continuing work with Derry City and Strabane District Council to facilitate the repair or reinstatement of the footbridge in Muff Glen forest, outside Eglinton, which was destroyed by floods in 2017, thus making that tremendous asset more accessible and increasing the number of people who can enjoy it?

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I believe that that is beyond the Roe valley, but the Minister may wish to respond.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I am unaware of the particulars of the case, as I was not forewarned. However, we have been working closely with councils across Northern Ireland to improve our forest parks. We have seen some fantastic projects being carried forward, where DAERA has supported the local authorities, and access for families and the disabled has been improved. We are happy to look at the issue that the Member has raised around Muff Glen.