Anger over Stoneyford illegal bonfire as officials sent to investigate threatened

Anger is growing over an illegal bonfire site at a Co Antrim beauty spot amid claims officials sent to investigate have been threatened.

A DUP councillor has branded the dumping ground at Stoneyford Reservoir “a total disgrace” with continued calls for the area to be cleared.

The site, owned by Northern Ireland Water, has seen the appearance of ‘UVF’ graffiti in recent weeks as well as junk piling up which locals say is “spilling out on to the road”. However, local authorities and the PSNI have failed to stop fly-tipping at the site.

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A concerned resident told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “At the moment it is a real danger, it is spilling out on to the road and could cause traffic accidents for anyone driving past. There is no support for this dump from anyone, but there is nothing being done by NI Water or the authorities and it is being allowed to continue year on year. It is getting worse.

“I have been in contact with NI Water and they have said their staff members have been threatened when they have gone to inspect the site. People in the village can’t understand why nothing is being done by NIW, the council or the PSNI.

“The impact this is having on the village is terrible. If we were to allow our dogs to poo near the reservoir we’d probably be fined, but an illegal dump and bonfire gets nothing. This will be set alight on the 11th of July and God knows what will be released into the environment.”

Northern Ireland Water has said it has “nothing to share” with the media on the alleged threats. However, the LDRS has seen an NIW letter to a resident, which outlines how in “previous years, efforts to remove material and monitor activity was met with threats of violence against our staff, which makes it difficult for us to take any meaningful action”.

In a response to the LDRS, a NIW spokesperson said: "NI Water continues to appeal to the public to cease using land at Stoneyford Reservoir for illegal dumping of waste materials.

"NI Water is aware of historic issues with fires being lit on or near the Stoneyford Reservoir site and although this will not impact on water quality or supply to customers, as the reservoir is not currently in service, it is home to a variety of wildlife who depend on the natural habitat for survival.

"NI Water remains committed to seeking a resolution and continues to work with the community, local authorities and elected representatives to resolve the ongoing issues at this site."

At Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC), there has been cross party condemnation from Killultagh elected reps who have spoken to LDRS about the Stoneyford bonfire site.

DUP rep James Tinsley said: “What is happening now is a total disgrace at this site. I agree with the residents. These are the actions of a bully. I see bonfires around the country that are looked after and tidied up, really well kept areas and I support them.

"This is the only one in the country that I have seen that is just a dump, with baths and everything in it. The amount of people contacting me about it, especially from the unionist community, who support bonfires, but not this."

He added: “I have offered my services to the authorities to go out and help to even tidy it up and even get it off the road. There are people texting me about having to swerve around it on the road. There is little to no support for this in the village or the surrounding area. If you took a look across the six counties, there is not one bonfire site like this.

"I would say to those behind this to wise up, grow up and if you want to respect your culture and traditions this is not the way to do it. Have you no love for the community you live in?"

Sinn Fein cllr, Gary McCleave added: “Those responsible need to get off the backs of the local community. This is an illegal bonfire on NI Water land and it is against the wishes of the whole community. NI Water has a responsibility as the landowners to secure and clear the site.

"I have been working closely with the community and other agencies to find a resolution to this problem over the past number of years."

The LDRS contacted the various authorities and raised the concerns of the Stoneyford Village as well as the allegations of threats being made at the illegal dump.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Lisburn Neighbourhood Policing Team are aware of issues around fly-tipping and graffiti in the Stoneyford Reservoir area, and continue to engage with NI Water, other partner agencies and local residents to find a solution.”

A LCCC response read: “Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is aware material has been deposited at Stoneyford Reservoir, which is located in its area and owned by Northern Ireland Water (NIW).

An image of sofas and other household furniture as well as wooden pallets dumped at the Stoneyford  Reservoir site.
Pillars at the dump have been painted in 'UVF' graffiti with a sign directing people to dump waste at Stoneyford Reservoir.

"The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is the regulating authority responsible for enforcement and any fines in this instance. We are engaging directly with NIW as the landowner, Northern Ireland Environment Agency as the regulator and other statutory partners around the continuing accumulation of material at this location."

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency is an executive agency of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), which has confirmed it inspected the site to the LDRS.

A DAERA spokesperson said: “Multi-agency meetings have been hosted to address the issue. This incident is now a matter for NI Water.”

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