27/08/2009

North Belfast Community Buses Torched

Fire has destroyed a small fleet of vehicles used by a community organisation.

People across north Belfast are set to suffer the consequences after vandals set buses and cars alight earlier this week.

The police have confirmed they are investigating the incidence of arson at premises in the Duncairn Gardens area early on Wednesday morning.

They said it happened at around 3.40am and saw three buses and two cars torched, receiving substantial damage.

The vehicles, which are believed to have been parked away from the main road for 'safe-keeping', were in premises also used by the Teletech Call Centre, just off Duncairn Gardens.

A representative of North Belfast Partnership said the vehicles were used to enhance residents' employment opportunities by enabling them to access transportation when needed and to take elderly or infirm people from the area to hospital appointments, for example.

"They were operated by North Belfast Community Transport," he said.

"They were originally purchased with EC funding and were used for the benefit of all the local community.
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"Their loss will be a considerable hardship," he said.

It is believed that - due to the enclosed nature of the area in which the vehicles were parked - that they were deliberately targeted.

"Whoever did this must have set out to do so - it was not a random attack," he said.

The North Belfast Partnership has recognised that one of the barriers to employment and learning in north Belfast is a lack of suitable public or private transport.

They said that the EC's Urban II funding saw this as an issue and set an objective to provide "innovative transport options to link unemployed people with job opportunities in the urban economy".

The arson attack will be a blow to the North Belfast Partnership which coordinates urban regeneration activity throughout north Belfast, and operates with other similar organisations under the common forum of Belfast Area Partnerships.

Anyone with information or who noticed any activity in the area is asked to contact police at North Belfast on 0845 600 8000. Information can also be passed anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

(BMcc/GK)

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