THE lack of street cleaning and maintenance around an Alness housing estate has angered an elderly resident.
For many years, 77-year-old Michael O’Mara of Obsdale Park kept the cul-de-sac where he lives neat and tidy on a voluntary basis.
But since his heart attack a few years ago he is no longer fit enough to do the work.
Since then, he says, Highland Council has continued to neglect the area.
“The pavements are in a terrible state. My grandson came off his bike a few weeks ago and skint his knees,” he told the Ross-shire Journal.
“The weeds at the side of the road are two feet high and there’s never been a bit of tar put down. We don’t even get a snowplough round here in the winter.”
Mr O’Mara added: “I did the work myself for about 30 years but I had to stop when I had a heart attack five years ago. When I stopped doing it some of the neighbours tried to do something but they are all getting older and they are not fit to do it either.
“We’ve been reporting this for five years and nothing has been done. I am just getting a bit sick of it. Our councillor said there’s nothing she can do.”
Mr O’Mara said that when he phoned the council to complain, he was told that his cul-de-sac was “not on the list” for maintenance.
“I know there’s cutbacks on everything, and we all understand that, but when they’ve done nothing for years and then tell me we’re not even on the list, I think it’s ridiculous.”
Cromarty Firth councillor Carolyn Wilson sympathised with Mr O’Mara, but said his street was by no means the only one that had been neglected.
“It’s no different to any other part of Alness. It’s the state of the roads and pavements everywhere,” she said.
“The weeds are all needing sprayed, the potholes are needing filled and the pavements are needing brushed.
“Mr O’Mara has been vocal about his area but many other streets across our ward, indeed across the Highlands, are in a similar condition. Some of them are far worse.”
Councillor Wilson added: “There is a general lack of street maintenance and repairs, but there’s no money to pay for it. The council only has a limited budget and decisions have to be taken on how to spend that money.”
She said very little street cleaning was done anywhere any more, particularly in housing estates. “Weed spraying, in particular, looks like it’s non-existent in this area.
“People ask why Alness High Street is so clean and tidy then, but it’s because we do it ourselves. It’s all done by volunteers. We rely on volunteers in a lot of places to plug the gaps.
“I’m completely supportive of Mr O’Mara and I’m grateful to him for all the years he spent tidying it up in the past.”
As part of the budget-setting process Highland Council agreed a package of £10.689 million savings for 2017-18, on top of £5.824 million savings agreed in previous years. In the current year this means a reduction in street cleaning resources of £220,000.
However, a council spokeswoman disputed Mr O’Mara’s claim that the street was not on the list for cleaning and that nothing had been done there for years.
“The council has to operate within reduced budgets for street cleaning and road maintenance but I can confirm that the cul-de-sac is one of the council’s adopted routes, and as such, street cleaning crews do carry out work there as Obsdale estate is on their route list,” she said.
“Staff have already arranged to carry out an inspection of both the roads and footpaths around the Obsdale area and will be reporting back on the findings so any work needed can be carried out when resources allow.”