THE Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has responded to suggestions from an Armagh councillor that they should overhaul their policy on road repairs.
Last week UUP councillor, Sam Nicholson, told the Ulster Gazette that the current policy is not working our local roads - and that is leading to roads falling into further decline.
“That's evident by the number of complaints I receive daily on the matter,” he said.
“The current state of our roads indicates to me two things: more funding and resources is needed and the current policy for roads repairs needs reviewed and changed for the better.”
This week the Gazette received a response from the Department, who reiterated their position that “improving the condition of the road network for all road users is a high priority for Minister Mallon who inherited a department that has been the subject of historic underinvestment”.
The spokesperson added, “The Minister has made clear that she wants to do more to improve the condition of the road network however she is constrained by the level of funding available and continues to stress to Executive colleagues the need for investment in roads infrastructure to help address regional imbalance, promote sustainable travel, help communities and improve safety.
“There is a rolling programme of maintenance and repair across the road network and like all areas, roads in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council area are inspected on a regular basis with all defects which meet the Department’s current intervention levels being recorded and prioritised for repair. The prioritisation for repair is based on a number of factors including the severity of the defect and the potential risk posed to the travelling public.”
According to the spokesperson, the Department's response to the repair of defects was reduced significantly as a result of budget cuts in 2015 and the Department had to introduce a 'limited' routine maintenance service resulting in a reduction in the number of potholes across the road network that could be repaired.
“This policy remains in place but is reviewed at the start of each financial year and, if possible, adjusted depending on the funding available,” they added.
“Looking ahead to 2021-22, as part of the Budget information gathering exercises, the Minister included a requirement of £120m for Capital Structural Maintenance.
“Whilst the capital budget is still under consideration the Minister has indicated she remains committed to setting up a rural roads fund from the available 2021-22 Budget.
“While pothole numbers may vary across Council areas depending on the type and total length of roads in each area, the same limited service is being applied across the whole road network.”