Northern Ireland news

Bonfire licence council to run pilot scheme

Suspected bonfire material at a council-owned car park in the Killymerron area of Dungannon
Connla Young

MID Ulster council is set to run a pilot scheme this summer alongside a consultation process for a controversial new policy designed to regulate bonfires.

The Irish News revealed yesterday that the environment committee had passed a draft policy for managing bonfires on council property which would require those building pyres to take out their own public liability insurance.

Loyalist and other bonfires held on council land would also be strictly regulated and subject to health and safety controls.

A council spokeswoman said yesterday that while any new policy will not be operational until July 2019, there are "plans to engage with local communities in advance of 2018 bonfire events to pilot the programme, allow community representatives to become familiar with how the proposals may operate in practice and feedback their views”.

Anyone taking part in a voluntary pilot scheme will have to provide evidence of insurance.

“Any pilot scheme that the council would choose to run would be voluntary,” the spokeswoman said.

“As part of the process, as it stands, it would require any organiser to provide evidence of public liability insurance.”

The draft policy bans the burning of potentially toxic material such as tyres and will require safety barriers to be placed around pyres.

It will also prohibit the placing of flags and effigies on bonfires.

Council officials have identified several insurance firms willing to provide cover for bonfires as long as organisers give an undertaking to follow the new policy.

The development comes just weeks after Mid Ulster District Council voted to introduce a bonfire licensing scheme across the district.

Last month a senior lawyer said a challenge brought by unionists, who are opposed to the plan, “does not have merit”.

It is believed to be the first time such regulation has been put in place.

The draft policy will now go before the main council for approval before being put out for a 13-week consultation.

It is expected the final draft of the policy and procedures will be completed in October.

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