ALLIANCE Newcastle Councillor Patrick Clarke has cautiously welcomed progress involving DRD Roads Service, Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive (SOLACE) about how to address keeping town centre pavements clear in icy conditions.
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy has just recently announced that key principles have been agreed to remove snow and ice from busy town centre footpaths this winter. Last year Councils and DRD were at loggerheads over who was responsible for gritting icy pavements across Northern Ireland.
It is hoped the pre-emptive arrangement between Roads Service, NILGA and SOLACE could prevent a repeat of the dispute.
Councillor Clarke said, “There appears some positive progress and it is therefore absolutely essential that there are arrangements that work to help ensure our town centre pavements such as in Castlewellan and Newcastle and other towns across Down District are kept clear of ice and snow this incoming winter.
“The Department for Regional Development has announced that these agreements will take account of Council preferences for a schedule of footways to be treated, call-out arrangements, salt delivery arrangements and the resources available to each council.
“Last winter’s extreme weather conditions had a terrible impact on the quality of life of many, particularly older people and people with mobility problems within Down District and also across Northern Ireland. The freezing conditions were also devastating for our retail and hospitality industry coming as it did in the run up to Christmas.
“I hope that arrangements can be put in place expeditiously that are robust and that work. People want action on clearing pavements in icy conditions and there must be clarity on protocol on the issue.
“No one wants to have to experience this winter the ice and snow covered footpaths and pavements in our local towns across Down District.
“I sincerely hope all the necessary contingency arrangements will be put in place in time by DRD Roads Service, NILGA, and SOLACE so that Down District Council can work with all the necessary bodies in partnership in order to prepare for any possible extreme winter conditions in the coming months ahead.”
Down News understands that Down District Council is ready to proceed with a gritting plan but there may be some training and operational issues as there is a requirement for the footpaths once gritted to be treated to specific standards to prevent any legal actions from claims from people who get injured from falls etc.