The destruction of trees next to a bonfire site on Prince Andrew Way has been condemned by a number of Carrick residents.
Already contentious due to its proximity to the historic track at Love Lane, the bonfire attracted further controversy after the trees were cut back over the weekend.
Any cutting down of trees is criminal damage and any information should be passed to the PSNIMEA Council
One resident from the Castlemara area, who did not want to be named, feared the structure was “still too close” to the tree line. “I’m really worried about the petrol station and the old people’s home if that line of trees goes up,” she said.
Another said: “Love Lane is an area of Carrick that’s been practically unchanged for the past 100 years.”
Condemning the tree-cutting incident as an “act of thuggery”, East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson added that structure itself is “too close” to the road. “Over the weekend, trees from Love Lane had been cut down and placed on top of the bonfire,” he said.
“This is an appalling example of criminal damage, right under the noses of the PSNI and the owners of the land, the Department of Regional Development. It will take decades to regrow the foliage, and rehabilitate this area to its previous condition.
“I have written to the DRD Minister to demand accountability on the matter.”
However, the PUP described Mr Dickson’s comments as “unhelpful” and called on him to apologise to the PUL (Protestant unionist loyalist) community.
A PUP statement added that “speaking at a community as opposed to tackling issues together speaks volumes and makes it all the harder for those actually working on the ground to resolve the issues as they arise”.
Commenting on the incident, a PSNI spokesperson said: “Damage to trees is clearly criminal damage. The land is owned by TransportNI and so we will work with them and investigate the matter if a complaint is made.”
Meanwhile, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council indicated that it provides grants to local communities to celebrate their culture.
“Where communities wish to move towards beacons then council will fully fund those,” a statement from the local authority added.
“The new bonfire that has appeared is on land owned by TransportNI who have been notified. Any cutting down of trees is criminal damage and any information should be passed to the PSNI.”
Landowners TransportNI indicated they would monitor the bonfire site.
“Experience shows that it is often difficult to find solutions acceptable to all interested parties,” a spokesperson added. “In particular the support, co-operation and involvement of local elected or community representatives is an important factor in reaching resolution.”
The Northern Ireland Fire and rescue Service also pledged to work alongside local communities and other statutory agencies to ensure people stay safe when building and attending bonfires. “NIFRS does not have any enforcement power in relation to the size and location of bonfires,” a spokesperson added.