Northern Ireland news

Council seeks further injunction in relation to towering walkway bonfire

The bonfire on the Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast

Belfast City Council are to seek an urgent injunction to protect a council owned play area from a controversial bonfire in east Belfast, with one councillor accusing the government department who own the land of a "dereliction of duty".

Residents living close to the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire have expressed fears at the size of the fire, which is less than 20 meters from nearby homes.

Fire safety officers measured the pyre yesterday saying it is not at a safe height, however, loyalists have said they will continue to add to the bonfire until it reaches 75 pallets high.

The Department for Infrastructure own the land that the fire is built on, however, a nearby soft play area is on council property and the Irish News understands that a court order will be sought at Belfast High Court today in relation to that land.

A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said it recognised "the huge effort made by council officers, councillors, mediators and community representatives in trying to resolve issues around bonfires this year.

"All parties in the city hall had agreed to work to improve the situation from last year. There has been some success in this regard, which is welcome, however, the situation at the Bloomfield Walkway has continued to prove difficult.

"Despite efforts by a range of agencies, the bonfire has been measured this morning as not being at a safe height acceptable to be within the guidelines of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

"We would make a final plea to the bonfire builders to remove the surplus material so as to reduce the threat to property.

"If there is not a satisfactory resolution in the time remaining, the council calls upon the Department for Infrastructure to take all measures possible to reduce the potential damage to local properties".

 

The council had originally planned to use an outside firm to remove bonfire material on DFI instruction, with the PSNI agreeing to provide protection to the contractors.

However, at a special meeting convened on Saturday unionists councillors and DfI officials rolled back on that.

Last year, Belfast City Council issued injunctions on four east Belfast bonfires, including Bloomfield Walkway, but the injunctions were never enforced.

The East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) , who speak for the bonfire builders, have said they will not be removing any material "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.

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

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown said the refusal by DfI to remove the material was a "dereliction of duty" and had prompted the decision to seek a further injunction.

"Belfast City Council made available its contractor to clear the site at the department's request and it is now apparent DfI has no intention of acting despite the risk to life and property.

"For a government department to turn its back on citizens of this city who are frightened and scared is a dereliction of duty.

"Self regulation has again been shown to be insufficient in curtailing the worst excesses of bonfires in Belfast and it is with reluctance we are pursuing an injunction to defend the public interest", he added.

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