North Antrin Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has called on the Department for Infrastructure to look at changing its Winter gritting policy to accommodate rural schools.
Mr. McGuigan said:
“This is an issue that comes up every year in Winter time when snow or frost arrives. Every year I get calls about the dangers to parents and children traveling to drop off or pick up children from schools on roads not included on the gritting route. I think the department needs to look again at its policy. There is certainly a good argument that rural schools should be added treated to provide equal access to services for the rural community. It is allowed a certain amount of leeway in its current policy which states
‘Special arrangements are in place for rural schools that face particular difficulty’
“I think this sentiment needs extended and put on a more permanent basis and I have contracted the Permanent Secretary of the Department to that affect.
“Over the past week of snow I have had many calls from parents about this issue. In some cases the gritter drives past within a few meters of schools but wont divert to cater for the schools. St. Patrick’s in Loughgiel is a prime example. The gritter drives up the Coolkeeran road past the Shelton road, and St. Patrick’s Primary school, a very short distance to the left but up a hill which is treacherous in icy conditions. The same case exits in Armoy with St. Olcan’s Primary school. Another case is Bunscoil an Chaistil in Ballycastle. In a major town the road to this Primary school must be gritted. These are three examples in North Antrim that come up every year and the local communities in these areas want to see action.
“I have once again written to Transport NI to ask that serious consideration be given to these three schools being added to the gritting network . In none of these cases will any major disruption or time be added to have any impact on the existing rota.”