AUTOMATIC GATES CALL FOR TROUBLE HIT BEACH CAR PARK IMPOSSIBLE

EMERGENCY services need a trouble-hit Ballyholme Beach car park open 24/7 in case of problems at sea.

But with serious anti-social behaviour continuing on Bank Lane, making nearby residents’ lives miserable, local politicians now think they could use automatic gates or retractable bollards to seal the site off to cars late at night.

That’s the upshot of talks on persistent problems in the council-run beachfront car park, which in recent weeks has become a mecca for underage drinking, car races and booze-fuelled brawls.

Just last month, police revealed that parents know their kids are heading to the problem area at night – and in some cases, even drop their young teens off at the car park with booze.

Local residents say that every night they’re left fearing the regular cacophony of loud music, hollering teens, blaring car horns and screeching tyres from drivers doing doughnuts will start all over again.

Last Wednesday night, Ards and North Down Council politicians insisted that the authorities have to take action to tackle the trouble.

According to alderman Karen Douglas, council officials state that the emergency services need constant access to Bank Lane car park in case anyone gets into serious difficulty at sea.

As a result, said Ms Douglas, locking up the car park at night wouldn’t be feasible – but other options could be brought into play.

“Anti-social behaviour is an issue throughout the year, but escalates during summer months,” she said.

“There is recognition that the emergency services need access to the promenade to deal with any emergencies at sea 24/7.

“There is a widespread appreciation that no one measure will fix this; rather, a suite of measures will be required including education, signage, communication, enforcement by both police and council, and perhaps a gate or other device to manage access to the car park at specified times in the late evening.”

Despite police and street pastors stepping up patrols of the site in recent weeks, she added, the trouble carries on.

Another issue for local officials is that Bank Lane was never adopted into the public road network, so is presumably still in private hands.

While the council has a long-term lease on the car park itself, the local authority doesn’t know who owns the lane leading to it, which could create difficulties in getting permission to install gates in the area.

The council is tasking its officials with tracking down the owner, at the same time as bringing back fully costed options of ways to block cars coming to the site late at night.

Backing the move was councillor Alistair Cathcart, who said he’d seen videos of drivers in the car park trying to coordinate their car horns to play a tune at 2am.

“It would be funny, if you weren’t the resident trying to get to sleep in the early hours of the morning,” he said, adding that the council needs to ‘strike a balance between protecting residents and providing access for responsible users who make legitimate use of a wonderful public amenity’.

Bangor Central councillors Craig Blaney and Wesley Irvine also spoke in favour of closing up the site overnight, with Mr Blaney commenting: “It’s no exaggeration to say that this is ruining some people’s lives.”