We have secured the final piece of evidence required to trigger the process of asserting a Public Right of Way at the Portavo Reservoir, a move which will ensure public access to the much-loved location for generations to come.
While some potential roadblocks remain, I am confident the formal assertion of the Right of Way at the important nature habitat between Groomsport and Donaghadee will succeed – after the “long and tortuous” process of gathering the required Evidence Forms was completed.
Vested in 1933 to form the Portavo Reservoir to serve Donaghadee, the land had been deemed as surplus to requirements by Northern Ireland Water. Ards and North Down Borough Council had been offered first call on the purchase of the property.
Ards and North Down Borough Council had agreed in principle to undertaking an economic appraisal of the reservoir with a view to purchasing it for public use. However, that process was brought to a grinding halt when a local landowner claimed a right of first refusal and dragged NI Water to the High Court to fight the sale to Council.
As a result of the High Court judgement, NI Water were required to offer the site for sale to the landowner who would have no legal obligation to retain public access.
That’s when I launched the campaign to Save Portavo by asserting a Public Right of Way around the reservoir enshrining in law continued public access for us and generations to come.
The process of asserting a Public Right of Way is neither inexpensive nor speedy, but today marks a giant leap forward in saving this incredible place. This is possibly the most important achievement I have had in the lifetime of this Council and it shows what we can do when we work together in the face of adversity.
I would like to pay particular tribute to the work of the Friends of Portavo and Greenspaces Bangor – both of whom have provided the campaign invaluable information and support and helped secure the future of this place for us all.”
The forms had to show that the people submitting them used the path around Portavo Reservoir as a right of way, as opposed to a circular walk. This is where many of the regular users of the pathway did not meet the criteria for completing the Evidence Form, unfortunately.
We have had to talk with literally dozens of Portavo users to find the few we needed who met the strict criteria. But where others gave up on this project, I believed it was possible and am thrilled that we now have the proof we need to begin asserting the Right of Way and retaining access to this incredible place for generations to come.