Restricted access to south Belfast park toilets due to drugs
An independent councillor has said he is seriously concerned about the level of drug dealing in public spaces in south Belfast.
Declan Boyle was speaking as Belfast City Council decided to restrict access to the public toilets in Ormeau Park because of a high level of drug use and dealing in the facility. Mr Boyle said Stranmillis residents had reported similar activity on the Lagan Towpath.
A document about "drug consumption and drug dealing in and around Ormeau Park particularly the toilet" was distributed to councillors by City Hall chiefs.
"The council has been working closely with the PSNI to attempt to disrupt this activity but there continues to be issues," it states.
"Officers are particularly concerned of the impact these issues have on other users of the park and a recent site assessment identified that a temporary closure of the internal access from inside Ormeau Park to the toilets may help to disrupt the activity and minimise the impact on legitimate park users."
It stated a "temporary closure" of the internal gate to the toilets would be in operation from yesterday and "will be reviewed every 48 hours for effectiveness".
Mr Boyle said he was deeply concerned about the situation.
"There is a growing problem of people using or dealing drugs in public spaces in south Belfast," he said.
"Ormeau Park is a facility widely used by young families and older people but their experience of it is now being blighted.
"Residents living beside the Lagan Towpath at Stranmillis report similar problems. We cannot allow public places we use for leisure activities to be destroyed in this way. Urgent action must be taken to address the situation."
The councillor called on the PSNI to devote greater resources to tackling the problem.
The council described the closure of the internal gate to the toilets in Ormeau Park as "a preventative measure taken to disrupt anti-social behaviour" which would be "kept under review".
Three years ago, the PSNI carried out a major operation against drug dealing in Ormeau Park and nearby Botanic Gardens.