THE saga of the Magnus Viking Association’s (MVA) bid for a 25 year lease from Down District Council near the shore of Strangford Lough was settled last night (Monday 26th September) when what should have been a simple decision became a procedurally complex issue.
MVA have faced a storm of opposition from environmentalists, residents and Delamont Park users who oppose the siting of a Viking village on the shore side of the park. The debate currently hangs on the initial proposal of the MVA to use a reed bed filtration system for its sewage system. However, this has since met heavy opposition and a previous Policy and Resources Committee recommended the lease but not with this mode of sewage.
Rowallene DUP Councillor William Dick reminded the meeting that he did make a proposal that the Council support the MVA in trying to find a site but that officials should ask them to consider relocating to an alternative site. He said that this option would be “cheaper, would remove possible risk to Strangford Lough, and while it is seen as an asset to the community would be preferable near other services such as toilets and parking in the park, and that of it did not reach a certain level of visitors it should revert back to the Council.”
But at the meeting, Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Burns questioned why there was an issue with the MVA opting for a Bio Disc system which had since been given approval from the NIEA. He said, “I thought this discussion should have been about the lease, not the reed bed system. I have visited this site and understand that the proposed system of a Bio Disc with a mini-treatment works is accepted by the NIEA and the MVA. It adheres to the BS 6297 code of practice.”
However, Sinn Féin Cllr Eamonn Mac Con Midhe said, “There is nothing in writing in this Council saying that the Magnus Vikings has this site as their preferred option.”
When SDLP Cllr Anne McAleenan questioned Michael Lipsett, Director of Recreation, he explained that the MVA had already incurred considerable costs in this project to date. He further explained that he had asked consultants RPS to examine the issue and provide advice and he added that their recommendation was a small Bio Disc system with a small reed bed included also favoured by the NIEA and the MVA.
SDLP Councillor Eamonn O’Neill said the matter could not be settled at the meeting until a full understanding of the Bio Disc system was made.
A proposal was made and passed and the majority of Councillors vot dto approve the lease which is now in the process of being drafted by the Council officials.
After a further vote, the matter of the sewage system was referred back to the Policy and Resources Committee. But with further technical discussion on the sewage system, Councillors may yet opt for the Bio Disc system. A full discussion on this system will take place at the next meeting so that Councillors are properly informed. If they agree that the Bio Disc system or an alternative system that is safe and satisfactory can be used, the matter will at last be properly finished. The MVA can now plan ahead with their Viking Village project.