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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Fears for future of DfI roads depot as MEA Council urge minister to reverse decision

Road service yard

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has backed a motion urging Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd to reverse a decision to temporarily close the DfI Roads depot at Kilwaughter outside Larne.

The motion was proposed by Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen at a meeting of the council at The Braid, in Ballymena, on Monday evening.

Cllr McKeen said:

“Considering recent reports of a temporary closure of the DfI Roads depot at Kilwaughter, I would seek that this council recognises the impact this will have on local services within the wider Larne area including general maintenance, emergency response, winter gritting programme, grass cutting, road traffic collision support etc.

“I would call on council to immediately write to the DfI minister to reverse the decision to close Kilwaughter depot and to invest in resourcing this vital service for the wider Larne area.

“It is very concerning that we bring this motion as yet another service is being lost within the Larne area, an important and vital service that is carried out as this depot covers from Islandmagee to Carnlough.”

Cllr McKeen said that services such as grass-cutting and winter gritting will suffer as a result of the “temporary closure” which he indicated is being blamed on a “resourcing issue”.

“You just have to look around the town to see the effects already. At Bank Road/Glynn Road until last year, the footpath there was extensively cut back but now there is no access for prams or wheelchairs.”

However, Cllr McKeen went on to say his main concern is the winter gritting programme and that the service needs to be maintained within the Larne area.

“This can’t happen. I urge the DfI minister to look again at this decision because it just does not make sense.”

The motion was seconded by party colleague Coast Road Cllr Angela Smyth who said that she has been “inundated” with inquiries from constituents regarding the first grass cut of the season in the Larne area.

She described the grass in some areas as “a danger to road users”. Cllr Smyth went on to say to move the service from the town would be “a body blow to Larne”.

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Cllr Roy Beggs questioned the “efficiency” of the proposal, which he suggested, would be a “waste of resources”.

“I hope it will not become a permanent closure,” he stressed.

Party colleague Coast Road Alderman Maureen Morrow said the proposal “does not make sense”.

“It just seems inefficient and such a waste of time. I have concerns about gritting during the winter months. Essential services will suffer if roads are not gritted.”

Larne Lough Alliance Ald Robert Logan commented: “This seems to be a very ill thought out plan.” He went on to say the Coast Road suffers from landslides and can be blocked “on a regular basis”.

He also said road junctions need to be kept clear.

Larne Lough DUP Ald Paul Reid stated:

“We have one of the busiest ports in Northern Ireland, if we can’t get salt on the road, it will have a knock-on effect. If there is a road accident, then the main road is shut. This is an absolute disgrace. The very ambulance has to go to Antrim.

“We must get a letter to the minister to reconsider. Mid and East Antrim does not have a hospital within its borough. That is why it is so important that Kilwaughter depot remains open. If we allow this to shut, temporary becomes permanent. If they get the lock on the gate, it will never open again.”

Cllr McKeen concluded: “It is all about protecting services within our area.”

A DfI spokesperson said:

“Due to staff shortages at the Kilwaughter depot, the Department took the decision to temporarily stop using it as an operating base during the working day in 2022. Since then, the delivery of our essential maintenance functions to the Larne area have continued and this will remain the same.

“The Department is continuing to monitor the staffing situation and can confirm that the relocation of staff to neighbouring depots remains a temporary measure and that there are currently no long-term plans for the closure of the depot. It is not possible to confirm the duration of this temporary measure as it is dependent on further staff recruitment.”


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