Northern Ireland news

Site of controversial east Belfast bonfire `closed for improvements' by council

Bloomfield Walkway is due to be closed for regeneration works from April 10 to the summer. Picture by Mal McCann

A CITY walkway which has become the site of a controversial loyalist bonfire is to be closed until "mid summer" by the council for "environmental improvements".

Work on the stretch of Bloomfield Walkway - which runs from Beersbridge Road onto Upper Newtownards Road at the Holywood Arches - will begin on April 10.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "Council expects the works at Bloomfield Walkway to take approximately 12- 14 weeks to complete and aims for it to re-open in mid-summer."

The flexible date could see work continue through the loyalist marching season.

It will see new planting and landscaping, `street furniture' installed, enhanced lighting, the upgrading and resurfacing of cycle and pedestrian paths and improved accessibility for walkers and cyclists.

Ravenscroft car park will be closed during this time.

The council said the east Belfast walkway is a "popular route for pedestrians and cyclists and has already benefited from investment via our Local Investment Fund with the addition of a play park and multi-use games area".

"The aim of these works is to create a welcoming, safe and attractive linear park for the local community to enjoy. We also want to improve accessibility for cyclists and walkers.

"The project is part of wider improvement plans for the east of the city which will regenerate key stretches of the Greenway down to Titanic railway halt, to improve open spaces and the travel infrastructure."

The walkway has been in the headlines this week after officials spent two consecutive mornings clearing pallets from the site which had been dumped ahead of the July 11 bonfire celebrations.

The bonfire site has been a source of controversy for several years and last July masked contractors flanked by police were sent to remove it at a cost to taxpayers of more than £120,000.

A High Court judge had ordered Stormont officials to intervene after hearing that "sinister forces" in the east Belfast UVF controlled the towering pyre and it posed a serious threat to nearby homes.

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has said "local agreement" has been reached that there "will not be any substantial large bonfire on the walkway this year".

He said an "alternative site" has been identified, and any pyre at the Walkway this July would be a "small token bonfire" incorporated into a children's party.

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