Belfast Telegraph

Council make 'final plea' to east Belfast bonfire builders to remove wood putting properties at risk

Belfast City Council have issued a "final plea" to bonfire builders to remove wood from a controversial east Belfast bonfire.

The Bloomfield Walkway bonfire has caused numerous issues for residents over the years with 50 properties evacuated in 2015.

Council have said that despite the best efforts of all involved the bonfire is still an unsafe size and could pose a threat to property in the area.

"Belfast City Council recognises the huge effort made by Council Officers, Councillors, mediators and community representatives in trying to resolve issues around bonfires this year," a council spokesperson said.

"All Parties in the City Hall had agreed to work to improve the situation from last year. There has been some success in this regard, which is welcome, however, the situation at the Bloomfield Walkway has continued to prove difficult."

The spokesperson said that the bonfire was in breach of NIFRS safety guidelines.

"Despite efforts by a range of agencies, the bonfire has been measured this morning as not being at a safe height acceptable to be within the guidelines of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service," the spokesperson said.

"We would make a final plea to the bonfire builders to remove the surplus material so as to reduce the threat to property. However, we recognise that the land on which the bonfire is built, is owned by the Department for Infrastructure and so it is their responsibility. If there is not a satisfactory resolution in the time remaining, the Council calls upon the Department for Infrastructure to take all measures possible to reduce the potential damage to local properties."

The bonfire has been moved to a new location this year but the Fire Service and residents have expressed concerns about the size and the damage it could cause when lit.

The Irish News reported that contractors and specialist police were expected to remove the wood from the bonfire over the weekend.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show Irish News Security Correspondent Allison Morris said that the DUP blocked plans to have the wood removed until further advice had been taken and that the site would be examined again.

Jamie Bryson of the East Belfast Community Initiative said that an agreement had been reached that the bonfire would be half the size of the previous year.

"This news broke and we found out that council had undermined the mediators and were going to take this more aggressive approach," Mr Bryson told the Nolan Show.

"I would say that I think they were for going ahead with this and whoever leaked the story, the loyalists would owe them a debt of gratitude because then became aware of what was going on."

Mr Bryson said that discussions were ongoing with the Fire Service to ensure that the bonfire won't affect any homes.

"What you have to understand here is that young loyalists are not going out to burn down people's homes or cause problems," he said.

A Spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure confirmed they were working with police and other agencies to manage public safety in the area ahead of the bonfire.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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