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Pothole problems causing havoc in rural West Tyrone

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Pothole problems causing havoc in rural West Tyrone thumbnailLocal farmer, Andy Ballantine, left, and Bert Wilson, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council vice-chairman, highlighting the pothole problem on the Glencullion Road, outside Gortin.

POOR road surfaces on the rural road network throughout West Tyrone are causing havoc for householders, service providers and visitors to the areas. It is also hampering economic growth and unless tackled will leave communities cut off.

That was the considered opinion of long time agri-campaigner and local councillor, Bert Wilson, who has been inundated with complaints from rural communities about the what he described as "the dire state of the roads" serving these people.

He pointed out that a major constraint with developing and maintaining rural roads is the fact that they are, unfortunately, rural and as such were being treated different from the area's more urban areas.

In a tour of such areas in recent days, Cllr Wilson spoke to many living in and using these roads. He said the rural environment was often the growth engine of a district, the food supply and the rural population, the custodians of the environment and ecosystems.

He said those in charge of looking after rural transport networks and planners of rural development needed to be experts in the complexities of these interconnecting priorities and needed to know how the road provision fits into the larger goals of rural development, and the priorities for economic and social growth.

One farmer he spoke with, Andy Ballantine, said he farmed in several areas outside Gortin and has, like many others, been finding it increasingly difficult to get from farm to farm.

Mr Ballantine said one example, the Glencullion Road, which is approximately six miles from Gortin village, was widely used by residents in the area, school buses, postal services, farmers who work the land, tourists who travelled the Gortin Glen, as well as private companies delivering goods or working at forestry projects throughout the area.

"Glencullion, like many others, is a well used road. The craters have been here for a very long time. I keep ringing the council and they tell me they are going to look at it but nothing has happened. Apart from the danger to drivers and vehicles these roads are just getting worse and I'm afraid it's going to take a tragedy or something like that to get things done here," he said.

He added people in the country paid their tax, insurance and rates like everyone else and deserved equal treatment when it came to repair services on the roads.

"What good is it paying road tax and insurance and rates when you don't have a decent road to drive on. The boys that come out to paint around the potholes on the road to identify the problem spend longer doing that than the boys that come out to fix them. We're been treated like second class citizens," he said.

Claiming that roads within the locale have been ignored and neglected, Cllr Wilson, said: "I have been lobbying TransportNI for ages but they keep telling me they have no money. These holes have gone beyond potholes, they're now bomb craters. I'd nearly say some of them are bigger than the craters on the moon! I know one 20 metre stretch of the road where you can find eight to 10 of these holes so if you miss one you hit another. It's a lottery trying to get through them. Some are up to six inches deep and three to four feet wide.

"I know there's no budget at the moment but these potholes have been here for a very long time. I have been lobbying for this for at least six months. When they do come out they put a bit of paint around them to highlight the work that needs to be done but that's just it, nothing else happens. It could be months before anything else happens," he said.

Cllr Wilson added many families used these roads on a daily basis.

"No matter how much the need is highlighted, there is no follow up work. This area outside Gortin is just typical of the real crisis we're facing on many of our rural roads in this area. It's annoying from a public representative point of view too. People are coming with genuine complaints and hoping to get work done but when nothing happens it's very frustrating," he said.

Cllr Wilson said he didn't think repairs would cost that much adding good roads would also enhance the attractiveness of the area coming into the tourist season.

"This is an area of natural beauty and we get tourists coming in here as it's part of the Sperrins but they won't be coming back or encouraging others to visit if they damage their cars while driving around."

He added that he knew of one woman from Sixmilecross who had to pay out 400 to repair her car after hitting a major pothole in that area.

"It's bad enough hitting the hole but the costs associated with fixing her car, the garage work and having to call out a repair man because the car couldn't move, all add to the unnecessary stress of such a situation - and I don't think the road is still repaired," said the councillor.

He said he agreed wholeheartedly with Mr Ballatine's assessment of the way people in the country were being treated.

"There's no doubt about it, people out here are being treated like second class citizens. If that pothole was at the end of any street in Omagh it would be fixed the next day but out here the same rules don't apply. If all our rural minor roads were serviced regularly, these bigger problems would never develop. It's not good enough," he said.

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