Belfast council removes kids' play equipment from park over bonfire fears
Swings and a climbing frame have been removed from a £250,000 playground next to the Comber Greenway in east Belfast because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire.
While the playpark has yet to be completed, Belfast City Council confirmed it had temporarily taken away "vulnerable equipment" that could be damaged by intense heat.
Last year, residents were forced out of their homes and their windows had to be boarded up because of the searing heat from a towering 50ft bonfire situated yards from houses on Chobham Street.
Despite pledges that it would not happen again this year, loyalists have been amassing fire material close to the new playground since Monday.
Earlier this week, a mini-digger was stolen from the playground and abandoned further along the Comber Greenway - a popular seven-mile walking and cycling route.
A local resident who runs the Comber Greenway Facebook page warned cyclists to avoid the section where the bonfire was being built.
"Building work has started on the bonfire and is blocking the main thoroughfare," they wrote.
"We ask you to leave the greenway at the Beersbridge Road, heading towards Belfast, and Ravenscroft Avenue, heading towards Comber, for cyclists. Walkers can join or exit at Lena Street. We ask you to avoid this section until Wednesday July 13."
Yesterday, a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "The contractor is preparing to leave the site (of the playground) for the holiday period, and as a precautionary measure we are removing vulnerable equipment.
"A digger that was taken from the site earlier this week has since been recovered.
"After consultation with the local community, play equipment, including swings and a climbing frame, has been removed as a precautionary measure because of the risk of degradation if close to intense heat."
The council also explained it had been working with the Walkway Community Association to build the £250,000 playground and multi-use games area on the former bonfire site as part of a local investment fund.
"We are aware that possible bonfire material has recently appeared on an adjacent site close to this area," the council added in a statement.
This week, a parent contacted the Belfast Telegraph to voice concerns about the threat to the playground, and said the bonfire builders were laughing in the face of regeneration efforts.
"It's just the destruction and the cost of the bonfire every year, and they don't clean it up," the mother-of-two added. "There's broken glass and rusty metal and all types of rubbish."
She also warned that even if the playground was not damaged by the heat, the remains of the bonfire could still pose a serious risk to children.