Northern Ireland news

Belfast bonfire under construction – in February

Bonfire material off Lismore Street in south-east Belfast, and right, pallets at Lanark Way in the west of the city
Brendan Hughes

BONFIRE materials are being gathered at sites in Belfast – five months before the Eleventh Night.

Pallets have been stacked off Ravenhill Road on waste ground between Lismore Street and London Road, which was at the centre of bonfire tensions last year.

Materials including wooden pallets have also been gathered at Lanark Way off Shankill Road in the west of the city.

Belfast City Council has already removed tyres from the Lismore Street site in recent weeks.

Multi-agency meetings have also taken place amid efforts to avoid problems during the summer bonfire season.

It is believed officials were first alerted to materials being gathered in late January.

Last July, 1,800 tyres were removed from the derelict land at Lismore Street in an operation undertaken by council contractors flanked by police.

Firefighters had last year warned that the bonfire had the "potential for fire to spread to adjacent properties when fully complete", site visit notes uncovered by The Irish News later revealed.

Tyres being removed last year from a bonfire site at Lismore Street in south-east Belfast

A makeshift sign displayed at the site this year warns people against fly-tipping or dumping tyres and says that vehicle licence plates will be recorded.

It reads: "Registration will be taken if seen! Dump wood. No fly-tipping, no tyres!"

A council spokeswoman said: "This site is not owned by Belfast City Council. However, as part of our work monitoring sites across the city where there have been bonfires in previous years, we are aware that material has started to gather and a number of tyres have been removed from this site by council.

"Members of Belfast City Council have established an all-party working group to achieve more effective management of bonfires.

"Belfast City Council's approach to managing bonfires is led by elected members.

Pallets and other materials stored at a site on Lanark Way off Shankill Road in west Belfast

"It remains a sensitive issue and council will continue to engage with community representatives and landowners to minimise any potential negative impact of bonfires on local residents, businesses, customers and property."

Last year there was tensions over several bonfires in the north.

In July a pyre at an east Belfast leisure centre was at the focus of a stand-off with loyalists over council efforts to remove it, while in August police were injured at a bonfire site in north Belfast's mainly nationalist New Lodge area.

In December just before Christmas, trees were planted on top of a notorious UVF-linked bonfire site at east Belfast's Bloomfield Walkway as part of £190,000 landscaping works which involved flat land being changed to low hummocks.

Some of the young trees were planted on top of these grassy mounds as part of efforts believed to be aimed at discouraging bonfire builders.

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