‘Don’t leave Larne cut off from civilisation,’ road chiefs urged

MORE roads must be gritted in the borough this winter to prevent rural residents being “cut off from civilisation”, Larne councillors have urged.

People living in isolated areas found it very difficult to cope with last year’s severe cold snap, with a number of untreated minor roads becoming treacherous or virtually impassible in places.

And elected members have appealed for the Roads Service to widen its gritting network in the coming months to take in areas such as Feystown Road.

At a recent meeting of Larne Council, Coast Road Councillor Oliver McMullan told Roads Service representatives: “Last winter, farmers faced big problems trying to get the milk out of the Feystown Road area because of the type of lorries that are used. They relied on salt piles being left out by the Roads Service, but people were coming and taking the salt away to use on their driveways.”

Cllr Martin Wilson Wilson added that residents in rural areas found themselves “virtually cut off from civilisation” last winter.

“People were unable to get to places such as school, work or hospitals. It was major problem for residents of Feystown Road, and if you could include that area on your gritting route it would make life a lot easier for a lot of people,” he added.

Cllr Maureen Morrow also highlighted other parts of the borough that had struggled to cope with the snow and ice.

“A large area around Drumcrow and Deerpark Road is not gritted. Last winter, the Ballymena bus was only able to go round that road two days out of the whole of December, so youngsters missed almost a month of school because of the bad weather,” she said.

Divisional roads manager Deidre Mackle told members: “I am sure you can appreciate that we have come under huge pressure to increase our gritting network across the division. We spent £10m on winter service last year, and if we were to grit all roads then that figure could be as high as £20m. If we acquiesced to every request to grit roads, then other things wouldn’t get done, such as grass being cut or gullies being emptied.”

But Ms Mackle moved to assure members that the Roads Service was “well prepared” for whatever weather lies in store for the borough this winter.

“We have 93 people on standby in the division and 34 gritters ready to roll. It costs up to £45,000 per night to grit the roads, and that is just when there is normal frost.

“Last year we had an exceptionally difficult winter, and I was very pleased that we managed to keep the main roads open, albeit with great difficulty.

“Our snow contingency plan is in place, and we have decided to significantly increase our salt stock in the division by an extra 10,000 tonnes in the run up to winter.

“We are well prepared for whatever the winter can throw at us,” Ms Mackle concluded.