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Belfast council storing 1,500 pallets for bonfire builders

STORAGE: Belfast City Council workers removing pallets near the Holiday Inn in Belfast city centre
Brendan Hughes

BELFAST City Council is storing around 1,500 pallets for loyalist bonfire builders on its property – and is set to return them ahead of the Twelfth.

Council vans were spotted removing the pallets at the weekend from a notorious city centre bonfire site near the Holiday Inn, close to Sandy Row.

The council said four staff members cleared the site "in agreement with the local community".

But The Irish News has learned that the pallets are being held in storage and are expected to be returned before July 12.

The council has asked the newspaper not to disclose the location, fearing the safety of its staff.

It refused to say whether its workers were paid overtime to move the pallets, or what wages they will receive for moving the materials back.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown described the plans as "deeply disappointing".

"Such actions are clearly more expedient than strategic and they send the wrong message about dumping in the city," he said.

"The council already operates a bonfire scheme to regulate this activity and encourage community groups to celebrate respectfully, and I would urge groups to avail of funding already available and for communities to resist blight and damage."

The bonfire site is close to where two tourist buses parked outside the Holiday Inn were damaged in a suspected arson attack earlier this month.

A council spokesman said it was "very aware of the negative impact of bonfires on communities, and seeks to work with other statutory agencies and communities to minimise negative issues at bonfire sites in so far as is possible".

"As part of this ongoing work, the council, in agreement with the local community, last weekend removed some 1,500 pallets from the site at Wellwood Street.

"No arrangements have been made as yet for the return of the material back to the bonfire site."

It is the latest issue to emerge with bonfires in the city in the run-up to the Twelfth.

Last month pallets stored in the back gardens of homes in west Belfast were moved amid fears of a repeat of a blaze that gutted houses near a loyalist pyre last year.

And in May a nine-year-old boy became critically ill after coming into contact with toxic chemicals dumped at a bonfire site near Shankill Road.

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