Money to burn?

editorial image

Ratepayers aross the Roe Valley have been billed £30,643 for the clean-up of 12 loyalist bonfires erected on lands owned by Causeway Coast and Glens Council during the marching season this summer.

The cost of tidying up the scorched earth after the ashes eventually cooled on several burnt out 11th night pyres - two of which were piled on council land at Alexander Road and Greystone in Limavady - was revealed this week at a meeting of the council’s Environmental Services Committee.

Forty-two per cent of 29 loyalist bonfires torched across the district during summer 2017 damaged council owned land.

A further 17 were located on land owned by Northern Ireland Housing Executive (10), Transport NI (2), Rivers Agency (1) or private landowners (4).

For instance, fires in the Glens and on the Edenmore Road in Limavady were placed on land owned by the NIHE.

A bonfire in Burnfoot, meanwhile, was set alight on private land.

The additional cost for the clean-up of these sites, which will be paid for by taxpayers and regional ratepayers, has not been itemised, but will be over and above the £30k bill listed by the local authority.

This week the council’s environment committee also heard how 42 complaints concerning 13 bonfires sites were recorded by the Health and Built Environment Directorate this year.

Sinn Féin Councillor Brenda Chivers said the issue of divisive bonfire needed to be addressed, and not just due to the financial cost to local ratepayers.

“Sinn Féin are opposed to bonfires, which cause damage to homes and public amenities and which have been used to promote hate crime and which present a threat to life and property and to the environment,” she said.

However, Ms. Chivers said the incurrence of unnecessary financial costs should provide pause for thought.

“Looking at it from a purely financial point of view bonfires have cost the ratepayers of this council area. £30,643 for 29 bonfire sites.

“On top of this are wider costs including policing and other emergency services, and costs to other statutory agencies.

“Of the 29 sites, 13 sites attracted a total of 42 official complaints to the council. So the issue of damage to community relations cannot be overlooked.”

She added: “I would also like to thank council staff for their clean-up efforts as returning the sites to their normal state is of utmost importance.

“However, there remains a need for the issue of bonfires to be properly addressed well in advance of next July.”

At Tuesday’s meeting it was revealed council officers attempted to engage with communities when complaints were received, but this didn’t always work.

“Throughout the bonfire building season and following the 11th July events, Council officers responded to complaints as received and on each occasion attempted to resolve through negotiation with limited success,” it was reported.

“All sites under Council control have since been cleared of debris and where possible scrap metal salvaged. The cost of clearance and repairs including labour and disposal charges is £30,643.00,” the committee heard.