Belfast Telegraph

Holyland 'written off' by Belfast council, claims Green MLA Bailey

Belfast City Council has "written off" the Holyland area, a Green MLA has claimed.

Clare Bailey a representative for the area said a Freedom of Information request she had made revealed there had only been  seven fines issued since January in the area.

Last month residents told the Belfast Telegraph they felt "under siege" during Freshers' Week. They described mayhem, partying and drunkenness. Police made three arrests during the period.

Between September 10 and 20 there have been 68 incidents recorded by Belfast City Council with 52 concerning on-street drinking. Not one fine for on-street drinking was issued during September, the Irish News reported on Monday.

“Belfast City Council appears to have written off the Holyland area," said MLA Bailey.

"The serious on street drinking and littering that blights the Holyland would not be tolerated in any other area of Belfast. There is a lack of enforcement and no regeneration plan.

MLA Clare Bailey of the Green Party says more needs to be done.

"Yet Belfast City Council continues to approve Homes in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) in the area which piles more people into an already overpopulated area.

“We need to think of the Holylands residents living in horrible conditions. The Holylands is coming down with rubbish and household waste. On street drinking and anti-social behaviour are making their lives a misery.

The Holyland area has been blighted particularly at times such as St Partick's and Freshers' Week with students taking to the streets for all-day and all-night drinking sessions. There has been numerous efforts over the years to try and combat the problem.

Police said one of the problems they face is having to repeat the work they do every year as each new batch of students descend on the area to begin higher education life.

Defending its lack of issuing on-street drinking fines, Belfast City Council told the Irish News it had adopted a "graduated response" in handling the problem meaning it issued warnings to students that they face prosecution.

“A graduated response does not cut it – we need to see by-laws enforced by Belfast City Council immediately," added MLA Bailey.

Belfast City Council, in a statement said: "Belfast City Council works closely with the PSNI, the university authorities and other statutory agencies throughout the year in trying to minimise the impact of negative behaviours on residents in the HolyLand.  It is recognised that Belfast City Council alone is not in a position to be able to fully resolve the wide ranging concerns in this area, and that working in partnership with other statutory agencies and the university authorities is the most effective way forward.

"We adopt a graduated approach, advising the students of the law in relation to anti-social behaviour, including on street drinking, and of the consequences should they be caught breaching the law. This includes warning them that they could be prosecuted for such breaches.

"Generally, during Freshers 2017 the students were compliant with the advice, and followed directions given to them by Council officers and to date there have no prosecutions for on street drinking for this period.”

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