Council considers bonfire programme

The July 11 bonfire in New Mossley. (Archive pic)
The July 11 bonfire in New Mossley. (Archive pic)

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is considering a draft bonfire management programme for 2016/17.

According to a report prepared for the council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, the aim of the programme is to improve health and safety, reduce environmental damage and promote family-friendly events.

The issue was due to have been discussed at a meeting of the committee in Mossley Mill on February 8, but was deferred.

However, the report prepared for the meeting revealed the outcome of workshops which had been held with councillors and stakeholders in 2015/16 to devise a policy.

The report showed that both groups agreed to the council providing £2,500 for the family fun event at Mossley Mill, and to the development of a list of noncompliance issues and a formula for imposing sanctions.

During workshops with councillors, it was agreed that the collection and/or burning of political materials, items that promote sectarianism, racism, homophobia or other prejudice, anything that is defamatory to a person’s character, and tyres and other toxic materials should constitute non-compliance with the council’s bonfire policy. Suggested sanctions for non-compliance involved full or partial funding being withheld for the following year.

However, further discussion was needed on whether there should be a requirement that the event be culturally sensitive, whether to introduce a cleaning programme of sites and renovation of damaged sites, and the specific prohibition of the use of flags, images and effigies and tackling prejudice including sectarianism, racism and homophobia.

Councillors failed to reach agreement on whether the collection and/or burning of flags should constitute a non-compliance issue.

It was agreed that family fun events which took place on private land without the landowner’s written permission would not receive funding, and a list of current recognised sites would be agreed with councillors and groups.

At the council meeting, the Director of Community Planning and Regeneration Majella McAllister said that a further workshop would be held this month, after which a final report would be prepared and brought before council.

Councillors agreed to respond to the DOE’s discussion document on the better management and control of bonfires, opting to “continue and develop current best practice” on bonfire management. This was proposed by UUP Alderman Mark Cosgrove and seconded by DUP Councillor Nigel Kells.