Monday, November 15, 2010

Icy pavements once again this year? Graham Marsden seems to be worried!

The situation last winter when pedestrians took to the roads to avoid the dangerous pavements

Hopefully the weather won’t be as bad this winter but the worry is have Highland Council learned enough from the difficulties of last winter and will they be able to do any better if we have another prolonged cold spell this time round? Will they once more fail to ensure even the town centre pavements are kept safe? Don’t forget we are entering a phase of massive cuts to the public sector and issues of manpower etc that even the Council themselves cannot foresee might yet emerge.

It was interesting, and worrying, to read Graham Marsden’s letter in the Nairnshire last week then. He began

“This week Highland Council announced the winter maintenance programme, but curiously, without any reference to how and when pavements are to be cleared.

We need to consider the importance of pavement clearing or where pavement doesn’t exist, the road-side, and how we can ensure the winter doesn’t leave a legacy of pedestrians with broken or damaged limbs and frustration that residents are unable to leave their homes.”

Now Graham is a leading member of the Council’s administration but reading the first paragraphs of his letter you might be forgiven for thinking that he was perhaps a member of the opposition or even a concerned member of the public. Does this illustrate just how hard it is for local members to influence policy in their areas? We seem to have little room for manoeuvre to dictate our own destiny in Nairn even over such an important issue as snow clearing. Graham goes on to illustrate the difficulties suffered by Nairnites last year, being confined in their homes etc. He argues that you use less salt to treat a path than a road and asks ‘Do we have a responsibility to afford the same or similar level of safety to pedestrians?’, ‘I believe we do,’ he responds to his own rhetorical question. He tells us how he will ask those “making the decisions on winter maintenance at Highland Council to look again at the priorities in provision for Nairn and other towns, to see if we should be fundamentally re-focussing the way we deal with winter maintenance to ensure our pedestrians are as safe as our car drivers, to ensure our pedestrians are as safe as our car drivers, perhaps in these cash-strapped times for less cost!”

Let us wish him well but this observer feels that his letter reveals the extent to which Nairn has little power of manoeuvre to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to dealing with the like of last year’s extreme conditions: the rules had to be followed and the roads had to be treated in order of priority but in actual fact, for days, even stepping onto the pavements in the High Street was to risk injury. Will pedestrians once again have to walk on the comparative safety of the roads this year? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out!

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