Cars damaged, bins put out and fake tickets issued in nasty spat over parking in residential area near Ulster Hospital
Police have warned residents living near the Ulster Hospital not to take the law into their own hands after reports that cars were damaged in a row over parking in the area.
Hospital staff and people who work in local businesses claimed that their cars have been damaged and fake parking notices have been placed on windscreens in the Cumberland Avenue, Cumberland Park and Cumberland Road areas.
The dispute has been ongoing for several years as residents say that hospital employees park in the residential streets to avoid paying for car parking.
It is not illegal to park on a public highway as long as driveways are not blocked, but residents have hit out at the "dangerous" and "annoying" practice.
Local resident Alan Knight said: "I have a Blue Badge but sometimes when I leave during the day, I come back and I can't find a parking space outside my own house. Sometimes I have to park at the other end of the street. It is a public road but it is very annoying."
Another local woman said: "It is very dangerous as sometimes I can't see around the cars to reverse out of my driveway. These people don't seem to realise that we have to live here."
Some residents have placed their bins and boxes on the pavement to try to stop spaces being occupied, but they reported that these have been moved and the dispute has escalated.
Last week, several local workers who park on the streets reported that their cars were scratched or damaged with permanent marker.
A 27-year-old north Belfast man told this newspaper he is afraid his car will be damaged and has felt intimidated after a fake parking ticket was left on his windscreen.
The notice warned that the car owners were parked in a "private parking zone".
It added: "Your vehicle registration number has been noted and is recorded. If this vehicle is parked here again, we will have it clamped and towed away at your expense."
He found the hoax notice on his windscreen in the Cumberland Park area when he returned from work on Thursday evening.
He said: "It's a public road and I'm not blocking it or anyone's driveway.
"I can understand residents not liking it, but it doesn't give them the right to post threatening hoax notices or key people's cars.
"This has been going on for weeks now, every time something happens I try and park elsewhere.
"The residents are literally trying to drive us out of their areas and they have no right to."
The damage to cars was reported to the police and they are investigating the incidents. They posted leaflets through doors in the area and warned residents to let them deal with the problems.
In the leaflet, Constable M Pritchard said: "Police at Castlereagh are investigating a number of incidents of criminal damage to vehicles that have occurred close to your home during the week 12th to 18th October 2015.
"Police are aware that there has been a parking dispute in the area between residents and employees at local businesses in recent weeks and believe that the damage to vehicles may be related.
"If you believe a vehicle is parked illegally or it is restricting access to your property then contact police on 101 and do not be tempted to take matters into your own hands."
Anyone with any information can contact police on the non-emergency number 101.