Tyres removed from Belfast bonfires following council vote
Bonfire builders have voluntarily removed tyres from two bonfires in Belfast following a council decision to remove materials from the pyres.
Tyres were removed from the bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre car park and another on Ashdale Street on Monday evening.
Earlier, a Belfast City Council committee voted to remove materials from both sites.
In a statement following the meeting a council spokeswoman said: "It was decided to act in the public interest and, given the level of concern regarding bonfires at Avoniel and Ashdale Street car park, that action would be taken to remove materials.
"Efforts have been ongoing for several months to encourage bonfire builders to be mindful of the need to protect life and property, and not to burn tyres."
A bonfire has been built on council land at Avoniel Leisure Centre and the Ashdale Street pyre off Bloomfield Avenue is being constructed following the unavailability of the nearby Bloomfield Walkway site due to landscaping.
The council added: "Belfast City Council has worked hard to engage with communities on the issue of bonfires, and its Bonfire and Cultural Expression Programme has had the highest number of applicants this year (35). The programme encourages bonfire builders to adhere to guidance which prohibits the use of tyres and hazardous materials. Beacons have also been provided for 16 sites.
"Belfast City Council's approach to managing bonfires is led by Elected Members. Council will continue to engage with community representatives to minimise any potential negative impact of bonfires on local residents.
"The Committee also made it clear that any acts aimed at intimidating elected representatives are unacceptable and should be condemned."
The Sinn Fein councillor Ciaran Beattie described it as a sensible position made in the public interest.
"Council premises should be welcoming places and council staff and service users should be able to use those facilities free from fear and intimidation."
It comes after contractors removed almost 2,000 tyres from a Bonfire in east Belfast on Sunday.
On Sunday, staff at Avoniel Leisure Centre were forced to close early due to the "potential threat" to workers.
The leisure centre was open at 7.15am for business as usual on Monday morning, although the main gates to the car park remained closed later in the morning after a chain and padlock were placed around the gates.
The DUP group leader on the council George Dorrian said: "We'll be continuing to talk with the bonfire groups and anyone who is involved in the agencies to try and get these tyres removed from all the sites, and we can have a peaceful Eleventh Night.
"We don't support the removal of bonfires wholesale, we want to see safe bonfires, we want to see bonfires without tyres, we want to see bonfires which don't threaten or intimidate communities, that's what we want to see and that's what we'll be getting.
"The various parties have their positions to take, what we want to do is make sure these bonfires are safe and people can come out and enjoy themselves."
SDLP council group leader Donal Lyons said their is a responsibility on organisers to ensure bonfires are safe.
“I understand the significance of eleventh night bonfires for many in our community and I am in no way trying to diminish that aspect of anyone’s cultural celebration," he said.
"But there is a responsibility on the organisers to ensure that bonfires are safe and pose no hazard. Many take that obligation seriously but in some cases that has not happened, in spite of engagement with organisers, and it is therefore our responsibility to intervene.
“The removal of up to 1,800 tyres from a bonfire site at the weekend also raises serious questions about the supply of hazardous materials. The scale of the removal suggests a significant and organised supply of tyres.
"The disposal of these materials is regulated by law and prohibits illegal handling. It’s important that the relevant authorities investigate this matter fully."
Last July, Belfast City Council took the Department for Infrastructure to court to force it to intervene over the height of the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire which was on the department's land.
Contractors moved in to remove material to reduce its height after it was found to pose a "serious threat" to homes in the area.
But the material was set alight before the contractors could move on to the site.
Belfast Telegraph Digital