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Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pedestrian steps necessary to ensure residents’ safety

Residents living in houses on Fifth Street in Barcroft Park, Newry are compromising their safety every time they leave their home to access their cars, Sinn Fein councillor Liz Kimmins has claimed.

Those living at the end of the street must negotiate a “makeshift pathway” which runs down a steep grassy bank to be able to reach the area used for residents’ parking.  This presents safety issues, particularly for the elderly and those with mobility difficulties, the only alternative to walk a considerable distance onto and along Doran’s Hill.

Councillor Kimmins hit out at a recent decision by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) that rejected the need for access steps to be installed despite the Housing Executive (HE) previously indicating an improved walkway is required. 

Outlining the need for action, she explained: “For over 40 years, the residents have had to use the grass bank in front of their homes as a makeshift pathway. This has proven to be extremely hazardous and unfortunately a few years ago, one elderly resident suffered a nasty fall here, resulting in a broken hip and tragically died later in hospital as a result of further complications.

“The resident’s daughter, who still lives here, has continued to fight for a set of steps to be put in place which would eliminate the risk of this ever happening again,” she added.

“The concerned residents have highlighted how, in having to walk the long way to access their homes, they are expected to walk on the road and down the side of Doran’s Hill, which can be very challenging when carrying heavy items or shopping bags; and if they are having work done to their houses, workmen have to make longer trips back and forward.  This is also particularly challenging for the elderly people living along here who have mobility issues and have no choice but to try and walk around the long way.”

The councillor says she discussed the issue with Housing Executive officials last year who “indicated they would be in a position to provide a better walkway, however this is dependent on adoption by the Department for Infrastructure”.

Having brought the matter to DfI, it responded stating the proposed steps would not be adopted, as it would not form “any logical link within the maintained road network that would be of general public benefit and would likely give rise to public liability issues”.

Describing the response as “hugely disappointing and unsatisfactory”, Ms Kimmins says the local community believes steps would “most definitely be of general public benefit”.  She vowed to continue lobbying the department and says she will request a site meeting “with all relevant statutory agencies to meet with those residents who are directly affected to give them the opportunity to voice their concerns frankly and openly with those involved in the decision-making process”.

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of Barcroft Community Association, Darren Thompson conveyed the anger and disappointment of the community: “Barcroft Community Association have supported Councillor Kimmins’ long-standing endeavour to get these steps provided as a necessity for the health and safety of our residents. This is a quality of life issue, in particular for the more elderly and infirm residents who live on this side of the fifth street, and we would strongly endorse and support councillors’ call for a multi-agency meeting to sort out this deadlock,” he said.