MLA’s warning after east Belfast building torched twice in one day
Vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the Sirocco Quays area of east Belfast has become so bad that someone could end up being seriously hurt or even killed, an MLA has warned.
Earlier this week, youths set fire to an empty two-storey administration building twice in the same day — and again last night — with two fire appliances having to extinguish the blaze on each occasion.
The building sits in the site of the former Sirocco engineering factory, which has lain empty for over a decade and has recently been subject to sustained criminal damage.
Windows have been smashed, while parts of the building have been reduced to mere rubble.
Youths have also been seen scaling the building and running amok, with residents in the area claiming that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a fatality.
Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen, whose office is near the derelict office block, told the Belfast Telegraph that the reckless behaviour, which has escalated in recent weeks — including the two deliberate fires in one day — is now “a danger to life”.
“The vandalism and anti-social activity is getting out of hand and something must be done about it,” he said.
“It seems to have escalated and it’s now clearly a danger to life. If there are no preventative measures put in place then they will keep on going until someone gets seriously hurt — or dies.”
He added: “It’s totally abhorrent that people think they can go around and wantonly damage property without consequences.”
Mr Allen said it was important for action to be taken by responsible adults, as well as those with influence in the community, before it’s too late.
“I would call on parents to be aware of where their children are at night and to know what they’re doing,” he said.
“Preventative measures must be put in place to stop the ongoing vandalism. Young people need to realise that they could end up with a criminal record by engaging in this sort of behaviour. They need to learn that actions have consequences.”
A PSNI spokeswoman said police had received two separate reports of fires at derelict premises in the Short Strand area on Monday, May 27, adding that “investigations are ongoing”.
Police called on “a number of youths” who were seen leaving the area prior to the fire “to come forward to help assist with our enquiries”.
NI Fire and Rescue Service Area Commander Mark Smyth said he’s “worried” about the problem and he issued a warning against lighting fires deliberately.
“Our business is to put fires out but it would be a better use of our resources if we didn’t have to deal with deliberate fires,” Mr Smyth said.
“We would advise people to stay away from derelict buildings because they’re dangerous and definitely don’t be lighting fires in them because they’re even more dangerous and someone could get hurt.”
The administration building — erected by the Carvill Group at a six-figure cost in the mid-2000s — was meant to be the cornerstone of a massive development on the Sirocco Quays brownfield site.
Some 5,000 apartments, retail space, cafes, restaurants, a supermarket and luxury hotel were earmarked for the 16-acre site, which sits on the east bank of the Lagan between Short Strand and the Queen’s Bridge.
But Carvill became a victim of the savage economic downtown, going bust with debts of over £80m, and the area has lain dormant for the best part of a decade.
Last August, Belfast City Council approved proposals for a £50m first phase of a new Belfast Waterside development on the former Sirocco site, which includes a 13-storey office building.
In a statement issued on behalf of Osborne+Co, the developer said the 16 acre site has been vacant for a number of years “and holds an important place in Belfast’s industrial past”.
“Osborne+Co takes security at the site very seriously and is collaborating with the local police to ensure there’s no repeat of recent antisocial behaviour at the site and to secure the site moving forward,” they added.