The Belsonic Festival organisers have been criticised for failing to meet an Ormeau community group after two requests to discuss the impact of events on local residents.
The Lagan Village Youth and Community Association, based at Ballarat Street, off the Ravenhill Road, have held two meetings with local residents, the PSNI and elected representatives on dealing with the five festival events to be held in Ormeau Park in September. Belsonic were invited to two meetings, but made no response, it is claimed.
PUP Councillor John Kyle, who attended the meetings said: “These events have a huge impact. You get thousands of young people coming into the area, you get cars parked anywhere, you get kids drunk in the streets, people loitering in entries, front gardens being used as a toilet. It’s very difficult for the local community.”
He said Belfast council along with the community association were “trying to minimise problems” at the events by working together to put antisocial behaviour officers and volunteers in place to help with safety and health risks.
Councillor Kyle first raised the matter at the recent monthly council meeting (Wednesday September 1st) when referring to a council agenda item on the use of Boucher Road Playing Fields for a funfair event this October, and the conditions the council expects for such events.
He told elected representatives: “I note the conditions that were placed on permission for the use of the Boucher Playing Fields, including to negotiate satisfactory terms and conditions via an appropriate legal agreement prepared by the city solicitor and the promoter, resolving any operational issues to the council’s satisfaction.
“In the same manner, Ormeau Park has been made available to Belsonic for events this month. To date there has been no engagement from Belsonic with the local community, despite invitations to come and meet the local community.
“They have refused to engage in any dialogue with the local community – despite the fact the events will have a significant impact on the surrounding area and on the residents.
“I would like to make the point that on these matters of organisations applying for the use of council facilities for large events, that it should be taken as read that promoters will engage with local communities to see what support is necessary, and to mitigate negative impacts.”
He added: “I think it is a very poor show on the part of Belsonic that they have simply refused to engage with the local community. I would like in future when we are considering requests like this, that it should be added to requirements that organisers and promoters are prepared to actively engage with local communities.”
The Lord Mayor told elected representatives that Belsonic did have to sign an agreement, and Councillor Kyle comments would be “fed back to the organisers.” Councillor Kyle said he was working with council officers on looking at community engagement as a requisite for event applications on the council estate.
A representative from the festival stated: “Belsonic takes the concerns of local residents in the vicinity of the concerts very seriously and engages with all statutory bodies including Belfast City Council, PSNI and Belfast Trust to minimise potential disturbance, whilst fulfilling all statutory obligations.
“We have a dedicated residents liaison officer whose sole job it is to deal with any concerns local residents might have, and who engages extensively on an ongoing basis.
“All residents in the vicinity of the concerts are notified in writing well in advance of the events and those in the immediate area are offered tickets to shows as a thank you on our behalf for their continued support.
“The vast majority of feedback we do have from residents is overwhelmingly positive with many of them appreciating the economic and social benefits of the concerts to life in our city.”