Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gritting teeth in the face of ice

Snowy road in Loughinisland
Minor roads and pavements are proving treacherous

The temperatures are sub-zero and, if the car starts, drivers face a potentially fishtailing drive to get to a gritted road.

That's if they make it to the car in the first place, with icy pavements posing an increasing danger to pedestrians.

The slippery paths are providing a surge in the accident and emergency wards with fractures from unlucky pedestrians.

In the north-west Altnagelvin Hospital has treated 102 people who required surgery after slipping on ice in the past fortnight.

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has postponed 26 planned operations as a result.

Vera Baker, 91, from Belfast, has been trapped in her home for the last two weeks.


"It's left me housebound completely. I can't get out to shop, but my good neighbours do the shopping for me. They call with me every day and I have a home help and she's marvellous," she said.

In Ashton Park in Finaghy on the outskirts of south Belfast temperatures are running high over how the authorities handle the big freeze.

They said their roads and pavements were never gritted.

Chris Corbett said he has been asking for a salt box for two years so local people can clear the area themselves.

"If you have a salt box you just lift it and away you go, salt the pavements, there's no problem," he said.

"It makes life easier for everyone, and to be fair the roads people don't have to employ labour to do this, we can go out and do it ourselves, therefore we only need salt, and we've got one of the biggest salt places in Larne there so there's no shortage of salt."


While the Roads Service keeps Northern Ireland's main routes passable with gritting they say their policy does not extend to gritting pavements, so who then is responsible.

The answer is no-one, unless you are a householder in Belfast.

There is legislation going back to 1845 saying that each household is responsible for clearing the area in front of them.

It is not known if this law was ever repealed, but it has not been enforced for decades.

Irrespective of archaic by-laws people have been taking matters into their own hands.

In Carrickfergus, the Milebush Garden Centre said that in the last two weeks they had sold more than 200 bags of salt to keep their driveways and footpaths clear.

At £6 for a 25 kilo bag it is a pricey option, and they have been experiencing problems in getting new pallets of salt.

Sales staff noted that the cost of slipping a breaking a bone outweighed the cost of the salt.

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