An Alliance delegation, which included East Antrim Assembly Member Sean Neeson, John Mathews (Lord Mayor of Larne), and Larne Town spokesperson Elena Aceves-Cully, has reiterated the party’s opposition to water charges in a recent meeting with Regional Development Minister Shaun Woodward.
Mr Neeson said: “The Government are determined to move forward with legislation, but we made a very strong case about the fact that people are already paying for water through the regional rate.”
Elena Aceves-Cully stressed that householders are already heavily taxed through their contribution to the regional rate and water charging based on the value of property will amount to another ‘property tax’:
“The much needed improvements in water infrastructure are due to the lack of investment during the years of Direct Rule and the population should not be penalised for this.”
Mr. Neeson accused previous Ministers of missing out on opportunities to secure extra finance for improvements, particularly at the time when Northern Ireland had Objective One status.
The delegation welcomed the recent investment in the Larne railway line, which has just reopened as far as Carrick, following the second phase of £25 million upgrading works.
The Alliance party representatives made the case for improved and new Park and Ride facilities, such as in Ballycarry Station, and for the use of the new Spanish trains on the whole of the Larne Line, as they believe that they will increase passenger numbers.
Other areas the delegates required urgent action from the Government are sewage problems, in particular the pumping of raw sewage in parts of Larne town, Whitehead and Islandmagee.
They also enquired on the progress made to-date on the proposals for the widening of the A2 Shore Road. As to the latter, Mrs Aceves-Cully questioned the viability of the option of widening the road in terms of safety, since accidents are likely to happen with residents driving in or out of their homes. She put the case forward for opening the road by land reclaiming as the most sensible option, as this would minimise issues of access to/from it and greatly reduce traffic pollution from the area. On the other hand, she said, the negative environmental impact which land reclaiming is likely to cause could be minimised with the alternative, more long-term solution, of a bridge joining the end of the M5 and the start of the dual carriage-way in Carrickfergus.