Northern Ireland

Bonfire preparations at park which only reopened last month following £1.7m revamp

Pallets have been stacked on new natural stone area at Pitt Park

Wooden pallets gathered at Pitt Park as contractors lay sand on the new surface of the newly refurbished site.

Bonfire material has been brought to an east Belfast park just a month after it reopened following a £1.7m revamp.

The park has a new playground, a multi-use games area and natural stone paths.

Dozens of pallets have been stacked at Dr John Pitt Memorial Park on the Newtownards Road.

At the time of the reopening, Belfast City Council said the expensive redevelopment was “inspired by the nearby shipyard and the area’s maritime heritage.”

The area has previously been in the spotlight over an illegal lockdown gathering and a controversial Eleventh Night bonfire.

The project to redevelop the area also includes boundary work, floodlighting, new signage and the relocation of a local sculpture.

The transformation project has been funded by the Executive Office’s Urban Villages Initiative and the Department for Infrastructure, with responsibility for delivering the scheme falling to Belfast City Council.

In the past flags, including the tricolour, have been placed on a large Eleventh Night bonfire built in the area.

Wooden pallets gathered at Pitt Park as contractors lay sand on the new surface of the newly refurbished site.

There was also controversy in February 2021 when up to 60 masked loyalists gathered in the district during Covid lockdown.

Despite the cash injection into the district, bonfire material has now been dumped in the area.

Earlier this week sand was also spread in the area, in an apparent attempt to protect the ground, ahead of next week’s Eleventh Night pyre.

East Belfast Alliance MLA Peter McReynolds said he was disappointed by the appearance of the bonfire material.

“I appreciate there are many who want to celebrate their culture with bonfires - but this must be always done in a safe, respectful and lawful way,” he said.

Ccontractors lay sand on the new surface of the newly refurbished site.

“I am disappointed to hear about individuals destroying their community with these materials, given significant and recent investment that went into improving the park, which will improve the lives of children and families in the area.

“They will be the ones missing out if the bonfire damages it.”

Mr McReynolds urged bonfire builders to rethink their actions.

“I would encourage the builders to reflect on their actions, remove the materials and think about the negative impact they’re having on their community and the next generation,” he said.

An 11th bonfire in Pitt Park.
Last year's bonfire at Pitt Park

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said it “is aware of bonfire materials being gathered at Pitt Park”.

“Our approach to managing bonfires continues to be led by elected members,” she said.

“A member-led decision-making process has been agreed to consider issues and make decisions on a site-by-site basis.

“We continue to proactively engage with elected and community representatives - including in the area around the new playpark - to minimise any potential negative impact of bonfires on local residents, businesses and property.”