Councillor calls for common sense over Islay’s ice-rink roads

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Islay pupils are arriving at school scared because of hazardous bus and car journeys on ungritted roads like ice-rinks.

Councillor Alastair Redmond says he has been inundated with complaints from worried islanders who say they have been struggling to stay on the icy roads.

He says despite the front-line roads men being hard-working, at the moment they can only do what they are told by the central management team at Argyll and Bute Council’s Kilmory headquarters.

He says because orders are being made from the mainland, the council has failed to grit the roads around Loch Gorm, Gruinart, the Oa, Ardbeg and Artalla early enough in the day.

And he says that one of his constituents has been told council policy for Islay is that no back roads are to be gritted.

This was taken taken between Glen road and Port Ellen high road. No_T06_BetweenGlenRoadandPortellenRoad
This was taken taken between Glen road and Port Ellen high road.

‘Our island’s diligent and professional school bus and car drivers start driving at 7.15am every morning so if the gritters don’t start until 7am our road’s department just can’t cover the roads before traffic is on them.
‘On many occasions over the last couple of weeks I have received complaints that the roads have not been gritted at all despite locals being told otherwise by call handlers on the mainland,’ he said.

Now he is backing constituents ‘justifiable’ demands that in the future decisions about when and where gritting happens should be made locally and not from Kilmory.

He said: ‘It is essential we allow our front-line roads men on the island to use their own initiative and common sense. Unsafe icy roads are as unacceptable in my council ward as they are in the more populated parts of Argyll. Our council must do all that it can to see that the more rural and isolated parts of Argyll are not provided with a substandard service.’

And he added: ‘I have taken this to the roads department via members’ services. It has to be rectified.’

As well as emails from fearful parents, complaints include gritters being spotted out on Islay when it has been 10 degrees in the rain.

Farmers have also complained culverts at Ballinby need sorting.

But an Argyll and Bute spokesperson said: ‘Argyll and Bute Council is responsible for 2,310kms of carriageway and our pre-treatments cover about 50 per cent of the road network. We simply don’t have the resources to treat all areas so we provide salt bins and grit heaps so that people can help themselves.

‘We track the weather through a sophisticated forecasting system. We consult with trained meteorologists who monitor actual conditions from satellite and locally-based weather stations.  Pre-treatments are based on area-specific forecasts and there is one for Islay and Jura. Our priorities have to be main traffic routes, including roads to hospitals, fire stations and ambulance depots.’