Northern Ireland news

Plans to remove pallets from controversial east Belfast bonfire have stalled

The Bloomfield Walkway bonfire in east Belfast

PLANS to remove material from a controversial bonfire in east Belfast last night appear to have been put on hold.

Meetings involving Belfast City Council officials are understood to have taken place over the weekend surrounding the plans to reduce the size of the towering Bloomfield Walkway bonfire.

The pyre, located close to the Newtownards Road, is twice the size that bonfire organisers had been advised to build.

It had been suggested that statutory agencies, with the assistance of the PSNI, had intended to remove some of the bonfire material from the site over the weekend.

Members of the council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee are understood to have held discussions about it on Friday and Saturday. However, it is understood that the extra material on the bonfire remained in place last night.

The detail of the meetings had last night not made public with several members of the committee declining to comment on the discussions when contacted by the Irish News.

It was also suggested that if material was to be taken off the bonfire, it would be added to an alternative site instead.

The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) also said it believed that moves to remove material from the bonfire would "undoubtedly be a regressive step and undermine all of the good work carried out to date".

Last year, Belfast City Council issued injunctions on four east Belfast bonfires, including Bloomfield Walkway, preventing any more material being brought to the sites.

But residents in the area have voiced concerns over the safety of their homes due to the size of the fire, which is less than 20 metres from some properties.

Mediators have been working with bonfire builders and negotiated the removal of some material last week. However, just days later more wood was added.

In a statement, the EBCI said: "It is simply not tenable to believe that loyalists are going to move any further on this issue whilst under duress.

"The Walkway bonfire was moved from the contentious car park and moved to the area the NIFRS advised was the safest in the vicinity.

"There is an agreed size for the bonfire, which is half the size it was last year. This is a substantial reduction in size.

"Once the bonfire reaches the agreed height the bonfire builders will self-regulate any remaining material and donate it to other bonfire sites.

"Such positive self-regulation will be severely undermined should statutory agencies try to force the movement of materials via duress."

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