Two statutory bodies are in dispute over the provision of safety vehicles used to protect staff cleaning rubbish off a major road.
Following an investigation by the Local Democracy Service, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) recently admitted responsibility for clearing litter from a large section of the Newry A1 bypass.
The admission came approximately 13 years after it was opened.
The Beech Hill to Cloughogue dual carriageway phase of the road was completed in 2010 at a cost of £150million.
Media queries to establish when a clean-up will take place has seen the NMDDC and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) pointing at each other to provide the traffic safety measures.
A NMDDC spokesperson said: “Cleaning of this part of the A1 carriageway can only take place during times that DfI will be carrying out its own maintenance of this section as impact protection vehicles are required to ensure the safety of council staff.”
However, DFI has put the responsibility of the impact protection vehicles firmly at the door of the local authority.
A DfI spokesperson said: “The A1 Newry Bypass is operated and maintained on behalf of DfI under a Design Build Finance Operate Contract by an operating company called Amey Transport Infrastructure .
“However, the responsibility for litter collection on this road is a matter for NMDDC under the Litter (NI) Order 1994.
“NMDDC have the right to access the road to fulfil their statutory obligations, but this is subject to advance notice and compliance with appropriate temporary traffic management for a high-speed road and other health and safety measures, which they must provide to protect their staff and other road users.
“Given the nature of the maintenance required on this road, which can be reactive in nature, it is not possible for ATI to provide a definitive programme of their anticipated work.
“While it is not always possible to co-ordinate litter collection with other maintenance work, both the department and ATI are willing to co-operate with the council whenever possible.
“While it remains the council’s responsibility to provide appropriate traffic management, including the use of impact protection vehicles, to support their work, the department remains willing to consider any co-ordination that can be provided.”
The detailed response from DfI has now caused NMDDC to take action by closing down communication with the Local Democracy Service until it has resolved who is to provide the vehicle safety measures for its employees.
NMDDC added: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will be seeking a meeting with representatives from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to clarify and agree collective responsibilities for the ongoing cleaning and maintenance of key areas along the A1 Newry bypass.
“Until this meeting has been convened with all key stakeholders, no further media comment will be provided.”
A date for the meeting of NMDDC and DfI has not been provided.