West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Kelly astounded at Response to Glenelly Roads Funding Concerns

Published: 12 November, 2013

Glenelly Sinn Féin Councillor Dan Kelly has said he has no intention of allowing Roads Service personnel treat the people of Glenelly as second-class citizens when it comes to the allocation of funds or provision of services. Cllr Kelly was speaking following this week's presentation by Road Service Network Manager, Mr Sam Webb, on the Local Transport & Safety Measures Report 2014 - 2016, to Strabane District Council. That meeting came on foot of Roads Minister Danny Kennedy MLA, announcing £4million funding for roads across the district.

Responding to the announcement following the meeting with senior Roads Service personnel, Cllr Kelly said while he very much welcomed the Minister allocating this additional funding for roads across the District, he was "bitterly disappointed that most of the allocation for rural roads was to be spent around the Baronscourt Estate, with little real investment coming to Glenelly." He also added that "in light of the meeting we have just had, it is clear there is a need for fundamental reform of Roads Service policy."

"When I took the opportunity to question Mr Webb about the lack of investment for the Glenelly area, I was astounded not just by his response, but his attitude. Having asked about the lack of street lighting schemes or the possibility of extending the salting network to include the B47 from Cranagh to Draperstown or other isolated settlements when conditions freeze during the winter months, Mr Webb started off being somewhat dismissive, before his response became what I regard as unprofessional. I have never before heard a civil servant issue such a thinly veiled threat as he did, when he went on the record to say he would even consider removing Gritting Lorries from the Plumbridge to Cranagh section of the B47 if the matter was pursued. To be perfectly frank, I thought it was disgraceful! The situation for the people in the Sperrins during the winter months is already intolerable, and the spectre of further reducing provision under the winter maintenance programme is something I am not prepared to countenance.

Describing the conditions residents of the Glenelly Valley in particular have to endure Cllr Kelly said, "Children from Cranagh and Goles who go to their local school in Draperstown lost 14 school days last winter when the bus could not get through the Glenelly Pass. Even though the route is classified as a B road and crosses through one of the highest parts of the Sperrins, it becomes impassable for local residents because it is not properly maintained during the winter months as a result of the requirements of the 1500 daily vehicle policy for salting to take place. A similar scenario to that of the school children ensues for residents who travel to Draperstown to get to their local GP practice, or need to get to the shops. It's absolutely scandalous that a pen pusher such as Mr Webb thinks he can come to a Local Government Authority quoting a policy drawn up by himself and his colleagues in the early 1990's in Belfast which is of no practical use to mountainous areas such as the Sperrins in 2013. I have since spoken to a number of party colleagues in Omagh and Cookstown District Councils, and it is quite obvious that the attitude of Mr Webb among other staff within the Western Division is replicated in other Council areas, so clearly there are systemic problems within Roads Service Western Division which need to be addressed. I have asked my party colleagues at the Assembly to raise this matter with the Minister directly and I have now also written to the Minister, asking for an explanation of Mr Webb's behaviour and also asking him to consider reviewing the Winter Maintenance Policy here in light of Mr Webb's revelation that it has not been properly reviewed in twenty years and which now so miserably fails the people of the Sperrins."