People who fill south Belfast’s alleyways with the contents of student housing must be held accountable for their actions, councillors have said.
Residents have spoken of the disgusting conditions in the mainly student Holyland area as fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour appears to be on the rise.
Graffiti, rubbish and used drug paraphernalia litter the area’s streets, with councillors calling for action.
Students vacating term-time addresses has seen house clearances exacerbate problems in recent weeks, with concerns growing over flies and vermin.
Alliance councillor Micky Murray has been vocal on social media, urging officials to clear the mountains of rubbish that have accumulated since most students for the summer.
“People are rightly concerned with the state of our city centre in recent weeks, but this residential community has been neglected and ignored for decades, and only recently have the statutory bodies responsible started taking an interest in addressing the concerns,” he said.
“The HMO (houses of multiple occupancy) regulations set out clearly the responsibility of landlords, but they’re not enforced nearly as much as they should be, and landlords need to be held accountable for the impact their properties and tenants have on the immediate area,” he said.
One resident, Billy Lynn (69), intends to voice his complaints to his niece, SDLP MP Claire Hanna.
“My son was complaining yesterday. He was throwing the rubbish out for me, it’s been like that for two or three weeks,” he said.
“Monday is normally bin day, and they’re usually fairly good, the council would come and take away the big bins but I don’t know whether they were here last week,” he added.
SDLP councillor Gary McKeown said he has been left “livid” by the situation.
“Every year we see the fly-tipping plague reach fever-pitch in July and August with house clearances, but just because it happens regularly doesn’t make it right and doesn’t make it acceptable. It is causing misery to residents and it is a health hazard,” he said.
“The disregard for neighbours by some tenants and landlords, and the expectation that council staff will clean up after them, is completely out of order.
“I want to commend council staff who do a fantastic job at clearing this waste, but they shouldn’t have to do it.
“We are rightly putting a focus on the challenges faced by our city centre in terms of cleansing and safety, but it is important that we also take proactive steps to deal with similar waste and cleansing issues in pockets of our suburbs.
“I have written to the council chief executive and the departmental director seeking a meeting to examine how we can beef up the response to these issues, including looking at targeted investigation, enforcement and prosecution to deal with those responsible and send out a clear message that it has to stop.”
Patrick Durney (21) lives in the area and said it is an ongoing issue.
He explained that there doesn’t seem to be a recycling scheme in place, and students are left with no option but to mix their rubbish.
Describing the alleyways behind his property, he said: “It would be clean for a week and then ruined again.”
Last week saw the first meeting of Belfast Council’s new cleansing task force, following weeks of criticism of the state of the city’s streets.
However, councillors have expressed the need for co-ordination with Stormont departments.
Mr McKeown said: “This is part of a wider systemic issue in the area that needs addressed at the highest levels of government if we are to transform it into the kind of thriving community that everyone wants to see.
“The SDLP has been calling for targeted, cross-departmental action for several years, but there has been painful silence on this, not helped by the absence of an Executive.
“There are a multitude of complex and difficult challenges facing the university area, but there is a real willingness to get to grips with it on the ground.
“We just need those with the power and the resources in Stormont to work with us to deliver transformation.”