Northern Ireland news

Holylands 'written off' by council, says Green Party's Clare Bailey

St Patrick's Day in the Holylands in south Belfast earlier this year. Picture by Hugh Russell

BELFAST City Council has "written off" the Holylands area of the city, a Green Party MLA has claimed.

Clare Bailey was speaking after it emerged that no fines were issued for on street drinking in the area last month and only seven littering fines have been handed out since January.

Residents have for years complained of problems in the area caused by drink-fuelled students.

The South Belfast MLA said: “Belfast City Council appears to have written off the Holylands area – the serious on street drinking and littering that blights the Holyland would not be tolerated in any other area of Belfast."

In one incident recently, a couple awoke to find cheese smeared across their front door on Rugby Road following residents' complaints about students making excessive noise.

Clare Bailey, Green Party MLA for South Belfast. Picture by Declan Roughan

Ms Bailey said: “There is a lack of enforcement in the Holylands area and there is no regeneration plan for the Holylands. Yet Belfast City Council continue to approve Homes in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in the area which piles more people into an already overpopulated area.

“We need to think of the Holylands residents living in horrible conditions. The Holylands is coming down with rubbish and household waste. On street drinking and anti-social behaviour are making their lives a misery.”

Belfast City Council has defended not issuing any fines last month for on-street drinking, saying it adopted a "graduated response".

It said this involved advising students of the law during the freshers' period and "warning them that they could be prosecuted" for anti-social behaviour.

But permanent residents in the mainly student area branded it "all talk" and called for tougher action from the authorities.

The council said its staff dealt with more than 140 incidents in the Holylands during September, but most resulted in advice or warnings being issued.

A spokesman said: "Belfast City Council worked closely with the PSNI, the university authorities and other statutory agencies during the period around Freshers' Week.

"We adopted a graduated response, advising the students of the law in relation to anti-social behaviour, including on street drinking, and of the consequences should they be caught breaching the law.

"Generally, the students were compliant with the advice, and followed directions given to them by council officers."

Ms Bailey MLA criticised the council's approach. 

“A graduated response does not cut it – we need to see by-laws enforced by Belfast City Council immediately,” she said. 

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