AFTER finally having their road and footpaths resurfaced for the first time in over 30 years, the residents of Sperrin Park in Omagh have been appalled to watch the smooth tar being torn up less than five months after it was laid.
Members of the community, many of whom are pensioners, were over-the-moon when the slick surface set earlier this year, giving the park an aesthetic revamp. More importantly, the improvement made it safer for those who use the popular thoroughfare between the Dromore Road and the Tamlaght Road.
So when the first machinery rolled in last month, all but unannounced, to tear up the road in order to lay underground infrastructure for a public utility instalment, the residents were initially perplexed. But when this particular contractor’s employees left and a new group of workers arrived, their shock tuned to rage.
Residents are now determined to bring a stop to two similar operations which DfI Roads has allegedly authorised to begin in the next few months.
Conor Gillespie, one of the many angry residents who congregated at the bottom of the hill of Sperrin Park on Tuesday morning to discuss a strategy to bring an end to the chaotic work, told the UH that residents have faced ‘major disruption to their lives’ since the first workers arrived a month ago.
“The park was upside down,” said Conor, “there have been squads of men everywhere, and all of the entrances to our houses were blocked in.
“Some of the tracks which have been cut across the road haven’t even been filled in, leaving a dangerous, unavoidable strips which could easily damage a car or cause a cyclist to lose control and come to real harm.
Conor continued, “There is a big crisscross (pictured) of intersecting cuts at the bottom of the hill and already water is gathering in it. Once the frost comes it will just blow that tar out and the potholes will start again.”’
Local councillor, Barry McElduff, attended the meeting on Tuesday morning to take note of grievances and help coordinate a community response.
Mr McElduff told residents, “I sent photographs of the state the roads and footpaths in this park to an expert and he replied, ‘that’s brutal, no way should they get away with that poor quality reinstatement’.”
He continued, “The resulting outcome of the lack of co-ordination from DfI Roads is that local people are being hugely inconvenienced and disrupted in their everyday lives.
“The constant digging up of the carriageway and, in many cases, the sub-standard reinstatement works also represents a misuse of public money,” said Mr McElduff.
One of the gravest concerns raised at the meeting was the threat the uneven paths pose for the many elderly residents who live in the aging locality.
74-year-old resident, Cathleen Woods, told Ulster Herald, “Last week, on a wet, horrible day, I had to walk with my shopping, through the mud, from the top of the hill to the bottom because I could not get parked. And then they wake you in the morning at about half seven and it all starts again. It is totally disruptive.
Her neighbour, Collette Reynolds (80) said, “I am a pensioner and I have to use a stick because I’ve had knee replacements, and the state the pathways have been left in is nothing short of treacherous. Most of us are elderly and we have been here since the houses were built in 1979.
Mr McElduff has written to Acting Divisional Manager of DfI Roads specifically regarding the Sperrin / Tamlaght Road area of Omagh and also more generally with regard to other parts of the town, requesting an urgent meeting on behalf of residents, which will be attended by a delegation from Sperrin Park who will hope to establish means of redressing what they see as the shoddy, unsolicited and regressive work carried out in their area.
In response to the indignant complaints of the Sperrin residents which the UH put to the Department, they responded, “The Department is aware of the recent street works carried out in Sperrin Park which are being undertaken by Fibrus Networks.
“On average Utility companies carry out between 45,000 and 50,000 street works each year. When carrying out this work companies must notify the Department for Infrastructure and comply with The Street Works (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and associated Codes of Practice… Even when work is carried out to a high standard the serviceable life of any footway or road can be reduced by utility excavations and reinstatements.
“While the Department undertakes sample inspections of ongoing / completed work, with utilities being required to undertake remedial works where necessary, the Department does not have the resources available to inspect all utility works on an ongoing basis. All utility works are subject to a defect repair maintenance period with any defects identified during the maintenance period being referred to the appropriate utility company for their attention and repair.”
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