Council’s safer bonfires call

A July 11th Night bonfire at the Glebe, Ballymoney.
PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

A July 11th Night bonfire at the Glebe, Ballymoney. PICTURE STEVEN MCAULEY/MCAULEY MULTIMEDIA

Councillors have urged the community to make sure there are no tyres, posters or flags on this year’s bonfires.

The call comes ahead of the marching season after councillors rubber stamped a proposal to “continue and develop the current best practice in relation to the management of bonfires.”

Addressing officials at last Tuesday’s Causeway Coast and Glens full Council meeting, members expressed concern that the problem was with fly-tipping rather than just the ‘bonfire builders’.

An Environmental Services report explained that the new initiative is a Council-led, multi-agency approach.

The report said: “Participation is voluntary and some bonfire organisers choose not to participate.

“As a result, there are still a number of bonfires which are having a detrimental impact and which are not necessarily supported fully by the local communities impacted upon.”

Sinn Fein’s Brenda Chivers said: “We need to make sure there’s no tyres, posters or flags.

“Farmers aren’t allow to burn trees but the community can burn whatever they like on bonfires.

“Tyre traders need to be spoken to as well.”

Director of Environmental Services Adrian McPeake explained: “We are working with groups to produce safe bonfires which is continuing practice of the legacy Council. We hope to offer consultation prior to the bonfires and work with these groups to discourage tyres.

“We are hoping to offer skips for unwanted material.”

Councillor Chivers claimed that pallets were being bought with grant money provided by Council.

However Mr McPeake rejected that notion: ”Any funding was for fun days and Council would not grant aid anything to do with bonfires.”

The DUP’s John Finlay said that the vast majority of bonfires were safe, however he urged Council not to give the impression of wanting to discourage them or impinge upon that culture.

“In Ballymoney Council we had the best bonfire initiative where communities got money and encouraged to build a safe bonfire.

“This has taken many years to build up and it shouldn’t stop just because of this Council. We don’t want to give the impression that this Council wants to stop bonfires.”

UUP councillor Tom McKeown said: “I don’t agree with Cllr Finlay.

“We are not trying to stop bonfire builders. Both sides have bonfires and Council need to engage with the builders.

“Many a time, tyres are fly-tipped.

“We are pointing the finger at the builders but some are being left near bonfires and the builders are seeing the tyres as great filling material.

“Mr McPeake has said that Council will lift unwanted stuff which is great.”

DUP member Alan McLean agreed with Cllr Finlay and Cllr McKeown adding: “We have put a lot of effort into working with people from the Glebeside.

“Now there are no tyres, it is well fenced off and secured.

“Before I have seen tyres, fridges and all sorts on, fly-tipping is a big thing. It’s good to be working with the people rather than forcing them.

“We must remember a lot of people look forward to these events.”

Councillor Chivers asked who was going to remove unwanted material, adding: “We don’t want Council workers to put their lives at risk.”

Deputy Mayor Darryl Wilson concurred with Cllr Finlay and Cllr McKeown explaining that he had been actively working with Dervock, Balnmore, Lislagan, Dunloy etc for ‘more environmentally friendly’ bonfires.

“The issue is fly-tipping and we need to engage with the local community, no matter what side of the divide” he said.

“Council needs to be a point of contact to find out who’s behind it.”

PUP Russell Watton concluded: “We are making great progress especially in Coleraine. Years ago 200 tyres were on a bonfire in Windyhall.

“Last year there were none.”