Two business owners who oppose plans to pedestrianise Belfast's Ormeau Road on summer weekends have received "sinister letters" in the post which they see as an attempt to silence them.
Michael Goggin of Michel's Fresh Fruit & Vegetables, and Fergal McAdam of homeware store Neptune, have said the 'Open Ormeau' plan backed by the SDLP, Alliance and Green Party will destroy their trade.
However, both businessmen were sent bizarre correspondence - in the form of fake press releases to the media - which quotes them as supporting the initiative which would see restaurants and bars expand outdoors in a European cafe culture system.
The PSNI have been made aware of both letters. The one to Mr McAdam falsely quotes him as telling a newspaper: "At first I was opposed to the initiative. However, when I saw the preparation, the community backing, and some 170 volunteers, I thought I needed to revisit the idea."
The letter to Mr Goggin takes the form of a press release to all media outlets in Belfast. It falsely quotes him as expressing "delight" at supporting Open Ormeau.
It then goes on to quote two real-life disabled customers of his - a female wheelchair user and a partially sighted male - backing the initiative.
Mr Goggin said: "It's a sinister letter which I regard as an attempt to intimidate myself and my 10 staff and to undermine and discredit my position.
"All I am doing is trying to save the business I have worked hard to build up over 22 years.
"Whoever sent this letter may see me as a 'wee greengrocer' whom they can silence. They are wrong."
Mr McAdam said: "When I spoke out against Open Ormeau, I never expected anything like this. I believe this letter is designed to intimidate me from airing my views.
"Those behind it won't succeed, but I've a young family and the whole experience has left me very worried and stressed about the impact on them."
The hand-writing on both envelopes was different, and the letters inside were typed. From examining the correspondence, the businessmen believe that at least three people were involved.
DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said: "These are sinister letters. Michael and Fergal should not have to put up with action like this because they dared to express their concerns about potential dangers to their businesses. This is supposed to be a community conversation but it seems there are some people who aren't prepared to simply agree to disagree with others."
SDLP councillor Gary McKeown said: "I absolutely condemn any attempt by anyone to shut down the conversation and make people feel unable to share their views about the project.
"Anyone for or against must be able to comment freely. It is only through dialogue that we can reach common ground."
Open Ormeau initially hoped to close the road to traffic during every summer weekend. It has been strongly backed by local pubs and restaurants. But in light of opposition from many other businesses - worried about a fall in trade - the plans have been reduced to only some weekend days in August.
The new proposals will be discussed by Belfast City Council's strategic policy and resources committee on Friday. The DUP opposes the plan. If Sinn Fein also fails to back it, the initiative will fail.
Mr Goggin said he was so worried that the proposals would close his business that he has written to First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill. The Belfast Telegraph has contacted Open Ormeau for comment. Supporters of the initiative insist it has strong community support and was endorsed by two-thirds of almost 1,000 people who took part in an online survey.