SINN Fein has praised Larne Borough Council for seeking an improved winter gritting contract for the borough.
Coast Road councillor James McKeown said this week that the local authority expects to receive a draft agreement soon from the Department for Regional Development which will enable council staff to salt footpaths in Carnlough and Glenarm, as well as Larne town centre.
Last December, it was almost impossible to walk on footpaths during the record-breaking spell of snow and ice. The DRD grits main roads, but not footpaths and it was only the brokering of interim local agreements – including salt supplies and public liability insurance indemnity – that enabled a number of councils to take on the task in a bid to boost trade in town centres.
A more permanent arrangement for emergency provision was to be agreed between the DRD and all councils, but as Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Roy Beggs Jnr discovered last week, only eight authorities have signed up. They are Ballymena, Belfast City, Carrickfergus, Cookstown, Craigavon, Limavady, Lisburn and North Down.
The information was tabled at Stormont by the Roads Minister, Danny Kennedy, in response to a written question from Mr Beggs.
“I thought that the arrangement worked well last year and so am surprised that to date only eight local councils have reached agreement,” he said.
“No one knows what weather is to come in the future. Arrangements and protocols are better in place before they are actually needed,” the Assemblyman urged.
Cllr McKeown said Larne Council had argued for a more comprehensive contract than DRD had offered. “I am very pleased that Larne Council has held out for an improved agreement for gritting footpaths which covers not just Larne town centre, but extends to Carnlough and Glenarm.
“It is something my predecessor on the council, Oliver McMullan, had pressed for last year.
“My understanding is that agreement has been reached in principle about the streets to be included, the salt to be provided by DRD and a degree of local flexibility. The draft is to be with the council soon and if agreed by officers and councillors it should be in force very soon,” said Cllr McKeown.
“I would congratulate the chief executive and her officers for doing a great job on behalf of the borough,” he added.