Public pressure paid off last week when North Down Borough Council met DRD Road Service and agreed a system for gritting the main footpaths in the borough’s towns — four days into the freeze.
Many residents were confined to their houses as the deepest snowfall to hit north Down in 47 years blanketed the area. Those who ventured out risked injury on the icy footpaths.
Angry residents complained that the grit boxes on residential streets were being pilfered. “I saw two men driving up and filling big bags with our grit,” said one Beverley Drive resident. However, the snow also demonstrated the high levels of community spirit locally as people with shovels helped stranded motorists get their cars going.
The stand-off over who was responsible for gritting the pavements was eventually resolved with Road Service agreeing to provide grit to enable council staff to grit the main shopping streets in both towns from Tuesday.
A council spokesperson said the arrangement would continue while Council staff were unable to carry out their normal duties.
“We must all be realistic about what can and cannot be achieved during the current extreme weather conditions. Neither North Down Borough Council, nor DRD Road Service, have the resources to clear all the streets/pavements in the borough,” she added.
As the freezing weather is forecasted to last into the new year, the council also advises: “Residents are encouraged not to drive unless absolutely necessary and to take care and to wear sensible footwear when out in the snow. Those who are able are encouraged to clear footpaths around their own homes if it is safe to do so.”
North Down MLA Peter Weir welcomed the agreement on gritting which he said would mean some progress and relief for constituents.
“This is a common sense solution which was pushed by a number of Councillors including Alderman Dunne and myself. It will utilise Council employees who are unable to do their normal tasks of street cleaning and refuse collection.
“Despite the scepticism and opposition of some Councillors it shows that action can be taken without over burdening the ratepayer.”
He said it was unrealistic to expect either Roads Service or the Council to clear every footpath but added: “Where I think there has been a major failure by Roads Service is to provide sufficient grit boxes and sufficient grit for the boxes that are in place.
“I believe that many people are willing to take action themselves, to help not only themselves but their neighbours, but this is being frustrated by the failure of Roads Service to provide the grit to do the job.”