1,800 Tyres removed from Belfast bonfire

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By Rebecca Black

Almost 2,000 tyres have been removed from a bonfire site in Belfast, it has emerged.

Contractors, accompanied by police, removed the tyres from a pyre in Lismore Street early on Sunday morning.

It can now be revealed 1,800 tyres were removed from inside the bonfire and around the site close to the Ravenhill Road.

The move came following a decision by Belfast City Council ahead of the lighting of an estimated 80 to 100 bonfires across the city on July 11.

Bonfires are traditionally lit in loyalist and unionist communities across Northern Ireland every July 11 to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 when the Protestant King William defeated the Catholic King James II.

They precede the Orange Order's marches which take place on July 12.

On Sunday, a spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said its approach to "managing bonfires" is "led by elected members".

"A member-led decision-making process has been agreed to consider issues and make decisions on a site-by-site basis," it added.

The council's Strategic Policy and Resources committee is due to meet on Monday afternoon to consider whether it will take action over a number of other bonfire sites.

These include a pyre built on council land at Avoniel Leisure Centre and one close to Ashdale Street off Bloomfield Avenue.

The bonfire in Ashdale Street is being constructed following the unavailability of the nearby Bloomfield Walkway site due to landscaping.

Last July, Belfast City Council took the Department for Infrastructure to court to force it to intervene over the height of the Bloomfield Walkway bonfire which was on the department's land.

Contractors moved in to remove material to reduce its height after it was found to pose a "serious threat" to homes in the area.

But the material was set alight before the contractors could move on to the site.

On Sunday, staff at Avoniel Leisure Centre were forced to close early due to the "potential threat" to workers.

The leisure centre was open at 7.15am for business as usual on Monday morning, although the main gates to the car park remained closed later in the morning after a chain and padlock were placed around the gates.

The chain was later removed and the gates opened.

A spokesperson for the East Belfast Cultural Collectives, which represents 13 bonfires, including Avoniel, said bonfire builders "did not threaten or intimidate anyone".

In Portadown, residents in a block of flats have been strongly advised to leave their homes amid serious concern about a nearby bonfire.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said between 30 and 40 families could be affected.

He said the bonfire has the support of the local community, and the sole issue this year is the height of the pyre.

In a letter to tenants, South Ulster Housing Association said it has been put on notice by the council that "the bonfire poses a serious health and safety risk to residents".

The Housing Association has organised alternative accommodation for residents in Armagh City Youth Hostel.

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