Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Damaged bridge will cost thousands to fix

Over £20,000 worth of damage has been done after an eleventh night bonfire was built “too close” to a south Belfast footbridge.

The Ulsterville footbridge on Fane Street, that’s regularly used by local school children living in the Village area, was “badly damaged” after the fire was built on the Belfast Health Trust land.

One local resident, who didn’t want to be named, said: “One parent living in the area, who has children attending Fane Street School — the main route for children going to school from the Village area — said to me it was scandalous.

“Most people in the Village support the traditional bonfires but they can't see the logic of having a bonfire so close to a bridge.

“Asking people to publicly comment though is almost impossible as they think they may be seen as wanting to stop bonfires — which is not the case.

“Another serious factor is that the bridge crosses a railway line and what could be the consequences if part of the bridge was to fall onto the railway is too horrible to think about.

“Local people are wondering if the bridge is still safe to use. Thousands of pounds of damage has been caused and thousands will be needed for repairs and the bridge will need to be closed again while the repairs are carried out.

“It is a needless waste of money as there was sufficient room to site the bonfire away from the bridge.”

UUP councillor Bob Stoker said he would make a point of meeting the organisers of the bonfire and encourage them to engage with Belfast City Council who will advise them on finding a site without causing fire damage for next year’s celebrations.

“A lot of bonfire collectors in the area have done this with the council this year with great success,” he added.

“That piece of ground has lain empty for a number of years. I believe it is to be a new entrance to the amalgamated primary school. If the health and education departments got their finger out to hurry the school development site along then I don’t think we would be having this conversation right now.

“With the new housing development, beacons are a good way forward for an area that is densely populated,” he added.

A DRD Roads Service spokesperson confirmed the damage had been caused by a bonfire which was lit close to the structure.

They said an initial inspection had indicated that the bridge is structurally sound, however a more detailed inspection is programmed to establish the extent of the damage and the repairs which are now required. “Repairs, estimated to cost in the region of £20,000, should be carried out during the summer period.

“In order to prevent a similar incident from happening again in the future, Roads Service has spoken to local elected representatives and is planning to engage directly with local community representatives on this issue,” they added.

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