Progress on Castlereagh bonfire situation: Long

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor and member of the Council’s Bonfire Working Group, Michael Long, has described as ‘constructive’ a meeting, also attended by statutory agencies, called to discuss bonfires in the Borough.

At the meeting a number of proposals were put forward to help deal with the problem of bonfires, which have caused increased concern this year due to their appearance earlier in the year.

Cllr Long said: “I welcome this opportunity for all of the relevant bodies to meet to discuss this problem and I believe that today’s constructive meeting has the potential to help to resolve the situation.

“The group has agreed to initiate further dialogue with relevant groupings in the local communities to see if the genuine concerns of residents can be taken on board. Whilst most people are prepared to tolerate this expression of cultural activity in the summer, it has got to be recognised that it is unfair that people have got to put up with these bonfires so early in the year.

“It is clear that many people are using the site for illegal dumping and I am pleased that the Council has agreed to prosecute all those involved in illegal dumping at bonfire sites. It is to be hoped that this will reduce the impact on people’s health and the environment. It is to be hoped that all in the community will play their part to see this problem resolved in a more constructive manner and the Council grouping is to look at ways to encourage groups to act in a positive way.

“Residents, ratepayers and taxpayers could be paying out up to £10,000 on cleaning up afterwards, on property damage, fixing footpaths, melted windows and so on.

“However, it is also clear that there is a lack of legislation, which prevents a more proactive approach to tackling bonfires being taken. They often become a focus for drinking, vandalism and other anti-social behaviour. Alliance will therefore press for more effective legislation to be introduced so that bonfires which continue to cause a nuisance to decent people for months on end can be dealt with.”

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