South Down SDLP MLA Colin McGrath has been inundated with calls from a variety of voluntary organisations who will be hit in the pocket as a result of changes to legislation governing the administration of road closures which will especially impact groups organising fundraising races.
The local Assembly Member said: “It is incredible that some councils across the North have introduced significant fees for community organisations hosting small charitable events which would see the closure of roads in their area. A few months ago these events would have been free but now the cost of closing a road for a charity run or fun day can run up to £1000, with up to £400 currently being paid to the Council on administration.
“More often than not, these events generate small but significant sums for charities and community groups in our area.”
Mr McGrath added: “When I first learned of these new rules, I made contact with Newry, Mourne and Down Council and as a result of these discussions Council Officers are currently revisiting the policy of administering this legislation with a view to offering reductions for those groups which are voluntary.
“This is welcome news. However It is a shame that this new legislation also requires all groups to advertise their events in the press which obviously comes at a cost and many require a Traffic Management Survey too which adds a further financial burden onto groups who are often cash strapped.
“I have made written representations to the Permanent Secretary trying to undo some of what previous UUP and Sinn Fein Regional Development and Infrastructure Ministers have implemented here, especially in terms of the requirement for all events to have an in-depth Traffic Survey.
“If your club or group is set to be affected please contact my office and we will make the necessary representations and ensure the appropriate discounts are applied.”
Cllr Laura Devlin added: “A number of organisations also made contact with me. It’s crazy that these groups, who do amazing work in our area on a voluntary basis, are being hit in the pocket with charges that often would result in the event costing the club as opposed to being a very minor income stream.
“I am pleased that our discussions to date with Officers have been positive and I look forward to the revised policy coming before the Regulatory and Technical Services Committee of Council in the coming weeks.
I am pleased that Colin has approached the Department for Infrastructure regarding the strict advertising requirements which have been factored into this legislation. In terms of major events, I understand such rules but for the local club who wants to host a 10k race, it’s nothing short of ridiculous.
“We should be doing all in our power to support these organisations who are often, particularly in a rural area, the backbone of our community.”