£5m funding boost for dangerous verges

Residents have claimed the high grass could cause accidents
Residents have claimed the high grass could cause accidents

Grass along Mid Ulster’s network of roads will be cut twice this year, the Minister for Infrastructure has announced in response to fears that local roadside verges were dangerously high.

Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan had accused the department of applying different approaches to the roads in different council areas, and demanded to know when local verges would be cut.

On Friday, Minister Chris Hazzard said that the first cut was already underway in Mid Ulster, and that a second cut would take place later in the year.

Last month, the minister warned that local roads would only be cut once this year due to budget pressures. He added that road safety would not be compromised and revealed he was bidding for more money.

The change of action has come about after an additional £5m was allocated to his department for routine road maintenance activities during June monitoring.

Local elected representatives have said that unseemly verges at the entrance to villages and towns were a turn-off for tourists and potential investors, and voiced concerns that unrestricted growth could affect motorists’ sight-lines and cause accidents.

“The first cut is already under way in Mid Ulster and the additional funding will allow grass to be cut twice across all areas during 2016/17”, said Minister Hazzard in response to MLA Buchanan’s claims.

“As I am sure you will appreciate, it is not feasible to have operational resources working on grass cutting in all District Electoral Areas at the same time. Whilst, at any given time, this may give an appearance of a different approach across various areas, I can assure you that the overall policy and approach is the same across all areas.”

In previous years, Roads Service reimbursed Dungannon and Cookstown Councils to the tune of £29,000 for cutting back grass verges on local roads. Due to budget pressures this was no longer affordable.