Residents in Ballynafeigh are calling for alleygates to be put up in alleys near local playing fields to prevent youths getting in and engaging in anti-social behaviour.
Residents said youths are using alleyways on St Jude’s Parade and South Parade to access Ulidia Playing Fields, which they enter by breaking fencing that has to be mended continually to keep them out.
The residents are concerned that the youths are then drinking and causing trouble for those people living in the houses backing onto the alleyway.
While residents said stronger fencing at the playing fields might prevent youths breaking in, they hope that putting alleygates up will prevent the troublemakers getting through to the fencing , breaking it and accessing the playing fields in the first place.
Ulidia Residents' Group chair Maire Guinness said: “There has been a lot of anti-social behaviour in Ulidia Playing Fields. They (the youths) get in through a fence there, and are drinking and playing football until seven in the morning.”
She said the fence has been repaired numerous times but that the youths keep returning and breaking it to gain access.
Groundsman at Ulidia, Barney Hughes, said: “They are coming into the playing fields every weekend, if not more often.
“The biggest problem for us is the broken glass and bottle tops on the pitches. They have also lit fires on and off the pitches.
“The club here starts from under-eights and we’re concerned that the children could be injured on the pitch.
“They are also damaging goal-posts and fences around the playing fields so alleygates would certainly help a lot to stop them gaining access to do this damage,” Mr Hughes said.
Ulidia Playing Fields, which has soccer pitches and a sports pavilion, is looked after under a facilities management agreement by Rosario Football Club, in association with Belfast City Council.
Residents have been asking for alleygates to be put up for some time, but at a PACT (Partners And Communities Together) meeting on Tuesday, August 4, they were told by a Belfast City Council representative that it did not have enough money to put new alleygates in place at this time.
Responding to the most recent calls for alleygates in the area, a council spokesperson said: “We received a very positive evaluation of our alleygating pilot scheme and we hope to carry out further alleygating in other parts of the city, once funding has been secured.
“Councillors approved a selection and criteria process which will be used to identify future areas for alleygates to try to deliver this project in the fairest way possible.
“Last month our parks department repaired the fencing at Ulidia Playing Fields and since then we have had no further complaints.
“However, we will note the latest information given and use it as part of the assessment process,” the spokesperson said.