Holyland area costs rise to over £3m a year
The annual cost of providing policing and other services in Belfast's Holyland area has risen to more than £3m a year.
Day-to-day costs for the area, popular with students and close to Queen's University, rose from £500,000 a year in 2006 to about £2.7m in 2010.
In addition, the cost of separate events rose to £324,000 in 2010.
The figures are contained in an independent report commissioned by Belfast City Council.
A final version, with plans for the area's future, is due later this month.
The study of the Holyland looked at issues like the cost of policing in the area, the provision of services, and the housing situation.
It details the cost of "managing issues" in the Holyland and wider university area from 2006 through to 2010.
Annual costs for policing, cleansing, wardens and other services reached £2.7m in 2010.
The report separates those annual costs from the costs associated with specific events in the area, like Saint Patrick's Day. Those costs have risen too.
It cost £324,000 alone to manage those separate events in 2010.
Policing costs for 2006 to 2010 came to about £3.8m.
In addition, the city council spent £1.5m in the Holyland over that period.
While the report says that some of these costs are related to the Holyland and wider university area, the report makes clear that most of the figures relate to the Holyland area.
The report says that these spiralling costs are "unsustainable".
The money spent by Belfast City Council included:
- £200,000 of staff time investigating noise complaints in the Holyland in 2010, almost a quarter of their total spend city-wide for the year.
- Two extra cleaning staff for the Holyland alone, costing around £43,000 a year.
- CCTV was installed in the area in 2010 at a cost of £40,000.
- £479,000 on wardens for the area.
The cost of policing the area accounts for just over half of the money spent in the area from 2006 to 2010, but Queen's University, the University of Ulster and the NI Housing Executive also spent substantial sums in the Holyland.
Costs are still rising - according to a separate figure from the PSNI's statistics branch the police spent £81,697 policing St Patrick's Day in the Holyland in 2011.
The report also reveals that crime is high in the Holyland.
The study said that the Botanic council ward, which is mostly made up of the Holyland area, ranked first out of 582 wards in Northern Ireland for crime and disorder under the multiple deprivation measure, with very high instances of burglary and theft.
Anyone living in the Holyland area has a one in three chance of being a victim of crime.
While the area has seen student unrest in recent years, a number of people in the report said that a minority of students were staining the reputation of the many.
The study also implies that the Ulster University and Queen's University may need to provide more purpose-built student accommodation, like halls of residence.
There are around 42,000 students in Belfast, but the universities only provide just over 2,600 bedspaces for those students - only one in 16 students in Northern Ireland lives in university halls.
In other cities of similar size, like Cardiff, Nottingham or Leeds, one in five students lives in university accommodation.
The report was commissioned by the Belfast City Council, the NI Housing Executive, Queen's University, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College at a cost of £62,000.
The final report will be released at the end of March and will contain recommendations for the future of the area.