However, the Council’s Cultural Expressions Policy (Bonfire Policy) has to achieve a number of Bonfire Policy goals.
One is that the Bonfire Planning Committees are supported in their endeavours to create a family-friendly festival atmosphere.
Another is that the environment is protected with an agreement not to burn tyres and other unsuitable materials.
And the final one is to ensure that bonfires are a positive feature for the neighbourhoods in which they are built.
While my Alliance colleagues and I were happy to support most of the points addressed within the Bonfire Policy, we were disappointed that bonfire builders were being given the first Saturday in May as the date on which they could begin gathering material for the fires.
This two month lead-in to the July 11th celebration seems unnesessarily long and creates difficulties for many of the bonfires neighbours who have to live with flammable materials close to their homes.
As such I was unable to support the Bonfire Policy and – reluctantly – was left no choice but to vote against it. The Alliance Party has a long history of working with every member of our community to create an atmosphere in which every culture can be celebrated in a manner that is respectful of the needs of others.
The eleventh night bonfires are an important aspect of the PUL culture and as such should be supported.
But those involved also need to recognise the needs and concerns of others in our community. I now look forward to a rigorous review of the Policy which is scheduled for September and will work with my Alliance colleagues to ensure a more robust plan is in place for 2016.
As each of the official bonfires attracts financial support of between £1200 and £2400 with a total investment in excess of £50,000 for events across the Borough, it’s not unreasonable to ask the Bonfire Committees to work with the rest of the community to agree a positive way forward.