West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Rural communities particularly impacted by winter conditions - Mc Aleer

Published: 12 December, 2017

Rural communities bore the brunt of this week's cold snap, the Rural Needs Act must be rigorously applied by the department in responding to such situations

Rural communities bore the brunt of this week's cold snap, the Rural Needs Act must be rigorously applied by the department in responding to such situations

West Tyrone MLA Declan Mc Aleer has said that rural communities in areas such as the Sperrins experienced the worst effects of the winter conditions that blocked many roads and closed schools this week.

Mr Mc Aleer said "I received many calls from distressed people unable to get out of their homes. In many cases these were older and vulnerable people and in other cases there were sick children who needed to get out for treatment.

"The gritting teams worked long hours and placed themselves in danger to keep as many roads as possible open to traffic. We all owe a debt of gratitude to them.

"One of the communities most affected was the more rural parts of the Sperrins in response to many calls I received from distressed people I wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure to make the request for the B47 road from Cranagh to Draperstown to be included on the gritting schedule. This is a strategic artery through the Sperrins but unfortunately this section is not included on the schedule.

"I pointed out that the recently published 2017 NISRA deprivation statistics revealed the Plumbridge Super Output Area (SOA) as the number 1 most deprived area in the north (out of 890 SOA's) in the domain of Access to Services. I added that with Cranagh at the outermost corner of Plumbridge SOA so I was confident in stating that Cranagh is the single most deprived community in the north as regards access to basic services.

Mr Mc Aleer added "The location and elevation of Cranagh makes it very susceptible to inclement weather conditions and when frost or snow strikes, the area is always badly hit.

"In my correspondence I explained that under TransportNI gritting policy, Cranagh qualifies as it is a hamlet and therefore the B47 between Plumbridge and Cranagh is routinely gritted during cold snaps. However, the challenge for the community is that while Plumbridge may be the closest link to the main gritted network, many local people access their services such as GP's, the shop in Draperstown and many local children go to St Colm's Secondary school in Draperstown.

"Unfortunately, the B47 from Cranagh to Draperstown is not on the gritting network and while this is approximately a 10 mile link, it is a 50 mile round trip from Cranagh to Draperstown via the gritted network. This leaves people completely cut off from important services and parents have contacted me in great anxiety as their children cannot get to school and they cannot drive on the B47.

"I have also asked for the route to and from Glenhull to be included on the gritting schedule. This is also a dispersed rural community where people were cut off during the week from their nearest village, Greencastle.

"The Rural Needs Act came into operation in June and, among other clauses, places a statutory responsibility on government departments to pay 'due regard' to the exceptional needs experienced by rural dwellers when making decisions.

"I believe that rural communities bore the brunt of this week's cold snap and that the Rural Needs Act must be rigorously applied by the department in responding to such situations".