Picket fence at bonfire site to keep fly-tippers out

The fenced-off land beside Milltown Road in Belfast, and the bonfire at the site in 2008. Picture by Mal McCann

A PICKET fence has been erected by authorities around a loyalist bonfire site in a bid to tackle fly-tipping and prevent materials toppling onto a main road.

The site beside Milltown Hill, close to Shaw's Bridge in south Belfast, has been enclosed with the small fence in recent days.

Safety concerns have been raised about the towering annual bonfire in the past, including police previously cordoning off the road due to fears that it was unstable.

There have also been issues with rubbish being dumped. Last year hand-painted placards were put up warning fly-tippers they faced a £50 fine.

In recent weeks bonfire builders across the north have begun collecting materials for Eleventh Night pyres – two months before the Twelfth of July.

The land adjacent to Milltown Road in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Already a sea of pallets has been stockpiled at a site in the Donegall Road area of Belfast.

Yesterday The Irish News revealed the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has investigated 93 complaints about bonfires since 2014, but issued just four fines.

The department defended its record, saying many of the incidents reported are referred to councils which take lead responsibility on bonfires.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon said the fence was put up to enclose the bonfire material and prevent it spreading onto the adjacent road.

Welcoming the move, the Balmoral area representative said: "It's a sensible proposal to enclose the material in advance of the bonfire.

Milltown bonfire in 2008 constructed with telegraph poles 

"The proposal is to restrict the collection to stop it looking unsightly and the material spreading onto the road.

"I think it was a response to concerns, just the fact that it was spread out all over the area and making it look like a rubbish tip.

"The council in previous years has removed large amounts of inappropriate bonfire material quite happily, tyres and settees."

Fly tipping signs on a loyalist bonfire at Milltown Hill near Shaws Bridge Picture Mal McCann.

There was some confusion last night among public agencies over who put up the fence and its purpose.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said it was erected on its land by Belfast City Council to reduce fly-tipping.

But the Housing Executive (NIHE) said it put up the fence to stop material "spilling on to the dual carriageway".

A DfI spokeswoman said: "The land is owned by Department for Infrastructure. Belfast City Council erected the fence having consulted with the department.

A large number of pallets being collect for a loyalist bonfire near the Donegal Road area Picture Mal McCann.

"This small picket-type fence was erected last week to help reduce the incidents of fly-tipping at the site.

"The management of bonfires is normally dealt with on an inter-agency basis between the local council, Department for Infrastructure, PSNI, community representatives and other stakeholders.

"Belfast City Council have taken the lead in this regard and have been actively liaising with the local community."

Fly-tipping signs last year at the loyalist bonfire site at Milltown Hill near Shaws Bridge. Picture by Mal McCann

However, an NIHE spokesman said: "For the second year, we have worked with community representatives in this area to limit the impact of an annual bonfire.

"For reasons of public safety, we have installed a temporary, protective barrier which ensures the area is kept as tidy as possible and stops material spilling on to the dual carriageway.

"We always work with local communities and other agencies to minimise any negative impacts from bonfires."

How The Irish News yesterday revealed just four fines have been issued in three years by NIEA for bonfire offences

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