YEARS-delayed work to clean Ward Park’s clogged ponds is finally due to start in less than a fortnight.
A de-silting job is due to kick off on November 13, and should be finished by Christmas – leaving the central Bangor park’s ponds sparkling like new just in time for the festive season.
The scheme has been on the cards for several years, with councillor Alistair Cathcart in particular repeatedly butting heads with local officials as he doggedly campaigned for the council to sort out the area’s silt problems.
Sludge build-up in ponds can cause problems for wildlife as well as breeding bacteria that can produce foul smells.
But Ards and North Down Council officials repeatedly put off the work, giving many different reasons for delays over the years.
They included a debate over whether or not the de-silting should be done as its own maintenance job or lumped in with a planned huge overhaul of Ward Park – an overhaul that itself has been delayed for years.
At other times officials said that money wasn’t specifically set aside for the work in the council’s budget, or that they were mulling over whether to use a tried and tested de-silting method or gamble on new technology that might turn out to be cheaper.
With the council at last setting a firm start date for the job, Mr Cathcart says he’s delighted that ‘a most needed environmental project’ will now be carried out.
“This project has been a long time coming,” he said. “Since I became a councillor, I have lobbied for improvement to the ponds; over the years the water depth has decreased and the water quality has worsened.
“Many a scheme came and went but funding wasn’t secured to address this work. Fed up with long delays, I eventually said that I would no longer support a council budget [without money set aside for the Ward Park job].
“Further delays occurred due to endless environmental regulations that had to be overcome, but we are finally over the line and the start date is finally here.”
Describing Ward Park as ‘a jewel in our city’s crown’, Mr Cathcart said that the de-silting work is ‘an important and necessary maintenance project to environmentally improve the ponds and ensure a better home for the ducks and other animals that call them home’.
He added: “This, however, is just phase one of Ward Park’s improvements, further plans are afoot to transform the central spine including creating new boardwalks and improving the bird enclosures. I will keep working to see the delivery of this project.”
Independent councillor Wesley Irvine also welcomed the news, stating: “This has been long awaited; Ward Park is a fantastic asset for the whole community and this work will improve the biodiversity in and around the ponds.”