Concern over grit provision amid cold snap.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

POLITICIANS have expressed concern over gaps in provision of grit bins across the Strabane area following the first cold snap of winter.

Snow and ice caused widespread havoc as motorists and pedestrians struggled to contend with the wintry conditions over the weekend and into the beginning of this week.

Across the district, a series of sporting and community events were called off whilst on Friday some rural schools closed early in the interests of safety.

Following a yellow warning issued by the Met Office from Thursday onwards gritters were out in force gritting the main routes but it was the rural roads and gateways to local housing estates which proved most problematic.

Local politicians said they had been inundated over the weekend by locals requesting grit boxes in their areas - many had no access to grit at all.

On Monday, SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan, said he had contacted the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Peter May, to highlight the "massive gaps" in the provision of grit bins in Strabane town and urged him to intervene immediately.

"It's clear that, following the freezing conditions, Strabane does not have adequate grit for residential areas which is leaving many people and families in unnecessary danger. Over the weekend many individuals have contacted me to raise their concerns about the lack of salt grit bins available for them or others," he said.

"This is having a massive impact on people, especially the elderly and vulnerable who are unable to go about their daily business. One elderly woman contacted me saying she was unable to walk to the bus stop to get into town."

Mr McCrossan said there are questions to be asked of Transport NI and their readiness for the freezing conditions.

"This shouldn't be the case as the weather conditions were forecasted well in advance. It's now important that as weather conditions further deteriorate in the coming weeks and months, that Strabane is prepared and the Roads Service is doing all that is necessary."

Sharing concerns over the "inaction", Strabane Sinn Fein town councillor, Brian McMahon, said some areas which traditionally have access to grit boxes weren't provided for.

He explained that areas of steep gradients such as Ballycolman, Ferndale and Melmount Villas, along with other areas were left to contend with treacherous conditions without the assistance of salt.

"These areas, year on year, have been assessed and would have had grit boxes with a sizeable amount of grit in but with this week's severe frost, there was none.

"I'm concerned that the agencies responsible for the gritting perhaps took their eye off the situation. There was a yellow weather warning.

"They maybe could have been a bit quicker off the ball in watching the weater instead of us trying to firefight today (Monday) for gritting boxes," he said.

Cllr McMahon said that following his representations Transport NI had given a committment to resolving the issue.

"We also made requests to have other housing areas looked at. I don't know what went wrong. I understand that Transport NI is stretched but my point is that these grit boxes have never been forgotten and it left a lot of local people in difficulty."

In a seperate issue, Cllr McMahon said he was concerned that after reporting a light outage at the junction of Ballycolman Road/Melmount Road near the local primary school that the light haven't been replaced.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) had been asked to respond to the concerns but at the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon there had been no response.

Police are continuing to urge motorists to pay extra care and attention on the roads during the frosty spell and to be especially mindful of black ice. Forecasters say the outlook for the remainder of the week should see temperatures rising.


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