COUNCIL UNDER PRESSURE

    Council urged to grit car parks and footpaths

    By Violet Brown

    ARDS and North Down Council has come under pressure to grit car parks and footpaths during icy weather after coming under criticism following recent cold snaps.
    Paths and parking areas became almost impassable in many parts of the borough in January, particularly the council-owned car parks along Bangor seafront, but remained ungritted because no-one would take responsibility for making them safe.
    The council and Department for Infrastructure have consistently denied responsibility for such a gritting programme leaving pedestrians facing often treacherous conditions in many towns and villages.
    After the problem was highlighted at a meeting of the council’s Environment Committee last week, council officials were asked to prepare a report, including costs, on the possibility of developing such a gritting programme in the borough.
    Raising the issue at the committee meeting, councillor Patricia Morgan referred to the prolonged cold weather spells just before Christmas which resulted in icy, slippery and dangerous footpaths and car parks in the borough and town centres.
    “It is not acceptable that in such circumstances the council does not have a plan or the resources or facilities to grit these areas to enable residents to walk safely to and from the main shopping areas rather than fall when they step out of their cars onto ice,” Mrs Morgan said.
    She proposed that council officers bring back a report with costs to outline what steps can be taken to ensure that council car parks and footpaths in the city and town centres were gritted when the weather was forecast to have heavy snowfall or prolonged freezing weather conditions.
    “Gritting car parks really matters to our residents – it makes our car parks safe,” she continued. “We don’t want someone falling over and hurting themselves in the car parks that are owned by the council”.
    She said council car parks are well used with people needing them to safely access schools, shops, GP clinics, sports centres and other things.
    “The council wants to support local businesses and people going about doing their daily tasks and to me it seems the current situation isn’t acceptable,” she said, adding other councils managed to grit their car parks.
    Speaking about his own area, councillor Martin McRandall said that during the last cold snap three falls were reported in one morning at Church Street car park in Holywood. “I was in Enniskillen that week and all the town centre pavements had been gritted,” he related.
    Councillor Trevor Cummings said the council-owned car park in Comber was built on a site where there was previously a pond.
    “When the freeze came it was particularly hard for people to navigate,” he said.
    “It wasn’t so much the length of time of this particular period but the severity on residents and retailers who are trying to encourage footfall through our towns”.
    Mrs Morgan’s proposal was backed by the committee and was due to be considered during a meeting of the full council last night.