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Towering loyalist bonfire built near petrol station

The bonfire near a petrol station at Prince Andrew Way, Carrickfergus
Brendan Hughes

A TOWERING bonfire is being built across the road from a petrol station.

The Eleventh Night pyre is under construction on a grass verge in Carrickfergus.

Nearby, on the opposite site of the road, is a petrol station forecourt and retail units which have been built in recent years.

The Fire Service last night said it is continuing to work with the community and other agencies to "provide safety advice".

There have been increased concerns about bonfires built near businesses and homes after houses were gutted last year in west Belfast.

Several terraced homes at Hopewell Square were damaged last July due to embers from the nearby Eleventh Night bonfire.

Families had to be rescued and the repair bill for the Housing Executive properties was £90,000.

And last month some residents had to flee their properties in north Belfast after bonfire material was set alight nearby.

DUP Carrickfergus councillor Billy Ashe acknowledged that the bonfire at the junction of Love Lane and Prince Andrew Way is "big", but said he has not been made aware of any concerns.

He said an annual pyre was previously built on the site of the petrol station but was moved to its current location a few years ago.

"It has been there two or three years now. There was a bonfire previously on the site where the garage was. Obviously the bonfire had to move to accommodate the new buildings," he said.

Asked if there were concerns about the bonfire's location near the petrol station, Mr Ashe said: "I haven't been made aware of any concerns and I did speak to people about it."

He added: "I think the people who have to make that judgement would be the Fire Service and the PSNI ­– they're the experts."

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: "We continue to work closely with our partner agencies through the Mid and East Antrim bonfire liaison group, as well as the local community, to provide safety advice in relation to the Castlemara bonfire in Carrickfergus."

PSNI chief inspector Stephen Humphries said: "PSNI are not the lead agency on bonfires, however we work closely with our partner agencies and local communities to address concerns linked to bonfires.

"It is our experience that constructive dialogue and engagement involving the community, politicians, public bodies and police is the approach most likely to result in workable solutions on bonfire issues.

"The physical removal of bonfire material is not a matter for police, however we will assist other statutory bodies to carry out their duties subject to the prevailing circumstances."

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