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Bonfire material stacked close to hotel where tourist buses were set on fire

Pallets and other bonfire material being gathered near the Holiday Inn in south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

WOOD pallets and bonfire material have been stacked close to a Belfast hotel where two tourist buses were set on fire at the weekend.

The pallets have appeared on land at Wellwood Street, which backs on to the Holiday Inn in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast, close to the city centre.

It is understood that the bonfire material has appeared within the past week, following on from complaints about its size in previous years, including from tourists who spoke of feeling intimidated.

The Housing Executive, which owns the land at Wellwood Street, said it has "no plans" to remove the material but said it would continue to work with "communities and other agencies to minimise the impact of bonfires".

A Housing Executive spokesman said: "We have no plans to remove material at present from this site but we will continue to keep the situation under review."

Pallets have also been stored at land at Sandy Row beside the former Gilpin's furniture store, which closed a decade ago, seemingly for transportation to the site at nearby Wellwood Street.

It is understood that the pallets and other bonfire material have appeared at the site near the Holiday Inn in south Belfast within the past week. Picture by Mal McCann

On Saturday morning, two tourist buses were damaged in a suspected arson attack in a car park at the hotel on Hope Street.

Police did not give further details of a possible cause yesterday, after initially stating that the fire was believed to have been started deliberately and was under investigation.

In 2015, guests staying at the hotel, which was then called Days Hotel, complained about disruption caused by the bonfire in reviews left on the travel website Trip Advisor.

One wrote: "Setting up for bonfire did nothing to improve stay or view from room. Noise from visitors there continued late into the night and on first couple of days, smell of smoke did not help."

Material is also being stored on land beside the former Gilpin's furniture store in Sandy Row. Picture by Mal McCann

The hotel's general manager replied to one of the complaints by stating that the bonfire was not on the hotel's land and added that "we are extremely sorry that you feel this impacted negatively on your stay with us."

Meanwhile, wood pallets and a YCV flag - representing the youth wing of the UVF - have been placed on land and lampposts at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast, which is owned by Belfast City Council.

The Sydenham Bonfire group, which organised a "fun day" to coincide with the funeral of Martin McGuinness in March, posted photos of the bonfire material and flags, which were erected above council signs urging people to 'keep Belfast clean'.

The bonfire material has been left at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

The group is under investigation for holding the party, with flags, burgers, bouncy castles and face painting, after Belfast City Council said the event was staged without its permission.

Last year The Irish News reported concerns from parents about children's football games taking place in the shadow of a UVF mural, painted behind Inverary Community Centre.

In February, it was announced that the mural was due to be replaced by football club artwork.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the flags at Inverary and of the bonfire material.

"Issues around flags and bonfires are sensitive and multi-faceted and the council is committed to working with communities and statutory agencies to minimise any negative impacts."

Pallets and other bonfire material being gathered near the Holiday Inn in south Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

It is understood that the pallets and other bonfire material have appeared at the site near the Holiday Inn in south Belfast within the past week. Picture by Mal McCann

Signs warn of 'no dumping' on land where bonfire material is being gathered in Wellwood Street in the Sandy Row area. Picture by Mal McCann

Material is also being stored on land beside the former Gilpin's furniture store in Sandy Row. Picture by Mal McCann

Bonfire material dumped at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast, which is owned by Belfast City Council. Picture by Mal McCann

Wooden pallets stacked at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Some of the wooden pallets which have been dumped at Inverary playing fields in the Sydenham area of east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

The council owned land at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast was the site of a "fun day" to coincide with the funeral of Martin McGuinness in March. Picture by Mal McCann

The bonfire material has been left at Inverary playing fields in east Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

Wooden pallets piled up on land at Inverary playing fields. Picture by Mal McCann

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