ALL SIX Bangor Central councillors are calling on the authorities to stop late-night trouble at Ballyholme Beach.
The politicians are putting on a cross-party united front, bringing moves on the issue to an Ards and North Down Council meeting that was set to get underway just as the Spectator went to press last night.
They’re hoping officials can find a way of safely sealing off overnight access to a council-owned beachfront car park on Bank Lane, which has become the focal point of the trouble.
Over the past couple of months people who live near the car park have been made miserable by persistent anti-social behaviour, ranging from late-night loud music and car races to drunken beach 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.
Before now council officials have claimed it wouldn’t be possible to lock the car park overnight without also blocking legitimate users of the site, such as early morning sea swimmers.
The six councillors hope that officials can find some way of threading that needle, preventing troublemakers from driving onto the site late at night while also allowing early morning access.
In a joint statement issued ahead of last night’s debate on the issue, Alliance alderman Karen Douglas and councillor Chris McCracken plus DUP councillor Alaistair Cathcart, Craig Blayney of the UUP and independent Ray McKimm stated that action is needed.
“Ballyholme residents continue to be subjected to nightly anti-social behaviour,” read the statement.
“This has been a persistent problem over the past few years, with drivers gathering in the car park from the evening to the early hours, playing loud music, revving engines, sounding their horns and racing around the car park.
“Neighbours are trying to enjoy their evenings and have a night’s sleep, but are hampered in doing so by the impact of this problem.
“Elected representatives have met with residents and officials from the PSNI and the council on several occasions over the years, while additional measures have been put in place to mitigate against the anti-social behaviour. Despite these welcome efforts, the issues persist.”
The recent upswing in trouble saw residents meet with councillors, officials and the police in City Hall last month, the six revealed, with politicians agreeing to find ways of ending or at least reducing the problems.
Last night’s debate was expected to result in officials being commissioned to investigate any and all possible solutions.
Said the councillors: “That includes potential restriction of access to the car park late in the evening through an appropriate mechanism, though pedestrian access to the beach would be maintained.
“Despite the best efforts of statutory agencies and others, the problematic anti-social behaviour has continued negatively impacting on the quality of lives of those living near to the car park.
“It is regrettable that due to continuing severe anti-social behaviour on site, we have to consider measures to restrict access – but as elected representatives, we have a duty to listen to the residents and act appropriately.
“A report will be brought back with some ideas to address the anti-social behaviour in the car park, while striking a balance to provide continued access for those who enjoy usage of the wonderful Ballyholme Beach in a responsible manner.”