Cllr Enright has welcomed news that Council has responded to his pressure by arranging for street sweepers to clear snow from the main areas of Downpatrick, Newcastle and Ballynahinch. But he has slammed the Roads Service, the Council and other agencies for failing to meet and create a coordinated response to the severe weather.
Cllr Cadogan Enright said “Clearance of snow from pavements was not, and is not in the street sweeper’s job description. However, they appear to have reacted favorably to a reasonable request to keep pavements clear from snow, and they are to be commended for that.”
Cllr Enright has been calling for a ‘cold weather plan’ and inter-agency cooperation at times of severe weather in the same manner as the Republic. Cadogan said “The contrast between the reaction to cold weather North and South of the border could not be more extreme. At the first sign of severe weather in the Republic the Environment and Local Government Minister John Gormley convened a meeting of the ‘Inter-Agency emergency coordination Group’ with the Transport Minister and Minister for Defense to plan for the expected adverse conditions. Supporting this group we had the senior managers from the Meteorological Office, the railways, bus companies, National Roads Authority, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. This all happened before the first snow-flake fell. In each and every local authority around the Republic a similar group met to coordinate the local response”.
“By contrast, in NI no senior group of N.I. Ministers have met. Here in Down District, I received a letter saying ‘The maintenance of pavements remains a discretionary power of Roads Division and the Council are neither resourced nor statutorily required to clear pavements of snow. Until such times as an understanding can be reached between Council and Roads Division that is not detrimental to Council in terms of resources or potential legal liability, the position will remain unchanged’. This means we are still in the same position as we were before the severe freeze last year – nowhere,” said Cadogan Enright.
“Clearly, the response to the snow in the towns in Down District has been dependent on the good nature of the street sweepers. Highly-paid pubic sector managers are failing to respond at an inter-agency and regional level. The Roads service has actually written to car-park operators in Down District Council telling them not to grit car-parks. People have been injured in Irish Street Car-park in Downpatrick on account of this policy. I will continue to demand that our local authority brings forward a “Cold Weather Plan” and that in future all responsible authorities coordinate at regional and local government level in advance of, and during severe weather.”, concluded Cllr Cadogan Enright.
Press Coverage – Anger over Downpatricks Icy Car Parks