Storey hopes authorities haven’t slipped up over footpath gritting

MERVYN Storey has told a meeting of Ballymoney Borough Council he hopes they won’t regret the decision to put a deal regarding footpath gritting on ice this year.

Last month the Times reported how a deal to finally clear up the issue of responsibility for clearing ice and snow from footpaths in Ballymoney had fallen through.

Last year’s big freeze over the Christmas period brought mayhem to the town with many footways almost impassable due to hazardous walking conditions.

Scores of town centre traders claimed compacted ice and snow prevented would-be Christmas shoppers from spending locally on what is traditionally their busiest time of the year.

The most vulnerable members of the community were perhaps hit hardest with tales of a number of elderly people being rendered housebound by the dangerous state of footpaths.

The situation provoked somewhat of a blame game with frustrated locals calling on Ballymoney Borough Council, central govenment or Roads Service to tackle the problem by salting walkways.

Many business owners were afraid to clear areas leading into their properties due to any potential insurance issues.

With another harsh winter period predicted this festive season Roads Service and council entered into dialogue earlier this year in an attempt to come up with a strategy to best tackle the issue.

But at a meeting of the council last month it was announced a deal could not be struck in time for this winter.

The agreement proposed would have led to the two coming together to jointly address the slippery problem.

A number of concerns were raised regarding the deal however.

These included the availability of council staff to clear footways which are snowbound, deciding when and where to grit/salt, costs and potential legal action should someone slip and hurt themselves due to the conditions.

The final concern was described as the ‘slippery slope argument’ - i.e. If council was to assume responsibility, what other roles would it be asked to take on?

Councillors in Ballymoney discussed the situation at a Corporate Services committee meeting where they were warned about setting a precedent in Northern Ireland and the difficulties with accurately budgeting the scheme.

After discussion, it was agreed by councillors ‘to recommend that council do not sign up to the partnership arrangements with Roads Service but that the Chief Executive (of Ballymoney council) explore options as to what could be done in an emergency situation based on arrangements operated last year in (the) town centre including flexibility available for provision of salt supplies to village centres’.

Speaking at Monday evening’s meeting, deputy mayor Tom McKeown asked councillors if they wished to re-visit the issue

The UUP man said: “Would any members like to re-visit that or are they happy enough to stay with it?”

DUP councillor John Finlay replied: “I am not happy with the decision.”

Cllr McKeown said he was not happy with the decision either.

DUP councillor and north Antrim MLA Mr Storey said: “I just hope it’s not an issue we have to re-visit given whatever weather there may be over the next few weeks and months.

“It’s an issue which still remains unresolved.

“DRD hasn’t given any conclusive advice or help on it.

“I hope we don’t get into the situation we had last year.”