Clarification sought over gritting after town centre falls

Mid and East Antrim Council has been asked for clarification over gritting of town centres.

Ballymena SDLP Councillor Eugene Reid tabled a question regarding the council’s responsibility for the gritting of town centre footpaths.

Cllr Reid queried the council’s position further to a number of reported incidents of pedestrians falling in Ballymena during a cold snap last month.

He asked: “In light of the recent cold weather and a number of reported incidents of individuals falling in Ballymena town centre due to ice covered footpaths, can the council report on our responsibility with respect to gritting of town centre footpaths and any plans that are in place should a similar situation occur in the future?”

Grit box.

Speaking at a meeting of the council on Monday evening, Cllr Reid said: “Am I right in saying there is a Memorandum of Understanding between DfI (Department for Infrastructure) and Mid and East Antrim Council to say that no-one has the responsibility for doing this?”

Operations director Philip Thompson explained: “The Memorandum of Understanding sets out the legal position and the legal position is that no one body has responsibility for statutory salting and gritting of footpaths.”

The Mayor, Ald Noel Williams, noted: “But we do. Nothing legally – but we do.”

Last month, the council issued a reminder over the gritting of roads and pavements. In a statement on social media, it said: “Councils are not responsible for the distribution or provision of grit, grit boxes or the gritting of the road, street or pavement network.

Online Tool

“To request grit for your area, you need to report it to DfI (Department for Infrastructure) Roads using their online tool on the NIDirect government services website.

“You can also report an issue with ice or snow on a road by email or phone (for emergencies only) by using the contact details on the Department for Infrastructure Roads page.”

A three-year Memorandum of Understanding signed last October between the council and DfI will see “clearing priority pedestrian footways of snow and ice during prolonged periods of winter weather” in Mid and East Antrim town centres – Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena as well as Broughshane, Ahoghill and Portglenone.

Other outlying villages – Ballymena, Glenarm, Carnlough, Glynn, Ballycarry and Islandmagee – are included in the priority two pavement scheme.

A report presented to the council by DfI Roads Northern Division, said roads in Mid and and East Antrim were salted 65 times during the 2020/21 winter season using 5,053 tonnes of salt.

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Depots based at Kilwaughter in Larne and Ballykeel in Ballymena saw 599kms of road salted using nine gritters. Salting is completed in just over three hours.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter