Residents weed the streets in municipal towns
4 mins read

Residents weed the streets in municipal towns

DfI criticised by one of the UK’s best-kept cities

By Annie Stewart

RESIDENTS of an award-winning town are taking matters into their own hands to keep it in pristine condition.

Donaghadee residents have turned down Department for Infrastructure (DfI) funding and are spending their evenings weeding the seafront and town centre.

The town has made headlines in recent years by winning awards at the Ulster in Bloom competition, and last year it won a gold medal representing Northern Ireland in the prestigious Britain in Bloom competition.

However, in recent months there have been concerns that DfI maintenance work is not being carried out well enough, and residents have been taking time to have work that would normally be carried out by DfI workers carried out.

And it is not just in Donaghadee that concerns have been raised about the lack of maintenance. In Comber it is believed that maintenance is not being done properly and, as in Donaghadee, locals are taking to the streets to have the work done.

John Caldwell, secretary of the Donaghadee Community Development Association, said the group and local residents were becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of maintenance by the DfI.

“We try to make the most of our town and spend over £10,000 on floral decorations every year,” Mr Caldwell said.

“In addition to this, our team of around 150 volunteers work tirelessly throughout the summer to keep the flower displays going. We have a very strong partnership with Ards and North Down Council, who play a very significant role not only in their displays but also in providing advice, guidance and practical support.

“It is therefore very frustrating that the government department responsible for weed control is apparently unable to fulfil its role, probably due to budget constraints.”

Mr Caldwell said the community understood there were budget constraints across government departments.

“However, Donghadee’s efforts to promote the city’s public image for the benefit of the local economy are being seriously undermined,” he said.

“However, our efforts to perform well in the Amenity Council’s annual Tidy Town competition are being noticeably hampered by the Department. Even from a Departmental perspective, delays in essential maintenance of footpaths and road verges cannot be delayed indefinitely without incurring even more serious financial consequences.

“The council certainly has our support in making the case to DfI that, compared to other councils, we are not receiving a fair and reasonable share of DfI’s annual budget for roads services.”

Roy Murray, of Comber Community Garden, said the department was understandably prioritising potholes.

However, he added that weed removal companies do not do the job properly and often rush to finish the job instead of doing it properly.

“Our weed problem is that people spray weed killers along the paths two, sometimes three times a year, but I haven’t seen anyone doing that for a few years,” Mr Murray said.

He added that in Comber a local volunteer has been cutting down weeds growing around the bypass, schools and on roads where the weeds block the view.

Mr Murray said local towns were doing this through Ulster in Bloom competitions but were not receiving the necessary support from the DfI.

“I understand the holes, but even they are just patched up and not done properly. I think DfI needs to go back to doing this work themselves, rather than outsourcing it to contractors,” he added.

A DfI spokeswoman said the department had “no specific statutory obligation to remove weeds”.

Weed control works are currently underway in the Donaghadee and Comber areas“- said the spokeswoman.

Please note that visible symptoms of weed death may become apparent 14–21 days after treatment.

“The Department has no specific statutory duty to remove weeds, other than to control noxious weeds. The policies and procedures in place are designed to ensure the safety of road users and prevent deterioration of the road surface.”