Statement on behalf of Belfast City Council
10 Jul 2019
Following a special meeting of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee this afternoon (Wednesday), a letter of complaint citing aggravated trespass at Avoniel Leisure Centre will be sent to the PSNI.
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.
For several months now Council has been trying to engage with bonfire builders at the Avoniel Leisure Centre site.
The leisure centre is a Council facility for use by all members of the community. It is a neutral space and the Council has a duty of care to the public that they can use the centre without fear of intimidation.
The Council also has a legal responsibility to protect against any threat to life, property or the environment.
Over recent days, as a result of a bonfire being unlawfully constructed on the Council’s land at Avoniel, the leisure centre has been forced to close its doors to members of the public.
The gates to the centre have been forcibly closed and barricades put in place for substantial periods, and threats have been made against private contractors.
This is wrong and unacceptable.
The council has also not given consent to individuals occupying this site or for any other activities being carried on there.
Today Members of the SP&R committee met to discuss the ongoing situation and reaffirmed its previous decision to remove all materials from the site.
As a result of information received from the PSNI, Members also expressed concern about the involvement of the east Belfast UVF.
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, businesses, customers and property.