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North Down residents 'dread' visitors flocking to beauty spots, says Alderman Marion Smith


People take to the beach at Helens Bay during the spring sunshine on Good Friday. Photo by Peter Morrison

People take to the beach at Helens Bay during the spring sunshine on Good Friday. Photo by Peter Morrison

People take to the beach at Helens Bay during the spring sunshine on Good Friday. Photo by Peter Morrison

Residents of North Down beauty spots “dread when the sun shines” due to anti-social behaviour from visitors, a councillor has claimed.

Alderman Marion Smith of Ards and North Down Council made an appeal for Stormont to send in a team of traffic wardens to patrol Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn, as locals were at “tipping point” over visitors littering streets and beaches, while their cars cram roads and laybys.

Alderman Smith told the council’s Environment Committee: “Importantly I must make it clear that Ards and North Down welcome visitors to our borough. But, and this is a very big but, those who visit must show some respect.

"It has almost come to the stage where the residents in Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn dread when the sun shines. Sadly it appears that in other beaches in our borough, and indeed UK-wide, this ‘I don’t care’ attitude is spreading.”

She said: “I appreciate that towards the end of March DFI Roads have secured a traffic warden presence in Helen’s Bay for some three weeks. While I thank the parking manager for his help, I must reinforce the need for a greater presence of enforcement.

“Car parking to me, and all that it brings, is key to this problem. Money must be found by DFI Roads to properly address it.”

She added: “People park on the approach roads, as well as anywhere and everywhere in Helen’s Bay, at times blocking entrances to homes. There have been cases where there wasn’t enough room for wheelchairs or prams to pass.

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“Because of car parking, mostly on the footpath, emergency vehicles have had problems. The grass verge on Church Road, even though it has double yellow lines along it, has been ruined by car parking. Several suggestions have been made – erect bollards, or plant trees along the grass verge – this would merely displace the problem.”

She said: “The problem here is that people really don’t care. So in all probability they would just drive to the nearest avenue. Traffic wardens have a central role here. As is so often the case they say they don’t have the manpower to cover the area where necessary.”

She told the committee Helen’s Bay residents were organising a petition to present to the government.

Councillor Richard Smart said: “Speaking as a rep from an urban area, in terms of getting the balance right in terms of traffic attendants, we need to go where the problems arise. Traffic attendants get a hard time sometimes, not everyone realises the difficult job they are doing, and how much they are working to keep our towns and villages safe.”

He added: “When you go around Newtownards, there are as many traffic wardens as there are shoppers. I think it is right we redress the balance at this point.”

A cross-party notice of motion was submitted by Alderman Smith and backed by Councillors Gillian Greer, Stephen Dunne, Kathryn McNickle and Martin McRandal, with unanimous support given at the committee.

The motion states that the council “recognises the work of the multi-agency group set up nine years ago in response to antisocial behaviour by visitors to Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn.

It states: “This group meets regularly under councillor chairmanship – stakeholders include the PSNI, NIEA, Translink, ANDBC, street pastors and the Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn Residents Association – and our thanks to those involved.”

It adds: “However, there are a number of problems associated with the anti-social and inconsiderate behaviour which must be addressed. In response to a key current issue, the council will write to DFI to ensure that traffic attendants have an increased presence in our local beauty sports, given the reduced footfall in our town centres and the increasing numbers of visitors to these areas due to lockdown.”

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