As published on ‘The Star‘ website:
People power has prompted a council U-turn – and saved winter gritting services on more than 140 Sheffield roads.
More than 1,000 city residents responded to a council consultation on cuts to the service, originally intended to reduce the number of precautionary gritting routes from 720 miles to 610. A further 1,500 opponents signed a petition. Now Sheffield Council has revised its plans, reinstating roads on school bus routes and those classed as ‘western access’ for traffic heading to Manchester Road.
Roads reprieved include Hagg Hill in Crosspool, Hangingwater Road in Nether Green, Kent Road in Meersbrook, Mortimer Road in Bradfield, and Stafford Road at Norfolk Park.
Steep streets with a gradient of 10 per cent or more have also been put back into the gritting routes. It had been intended only roads that carried more than 3,000 cars a day, and with a gradient of over 20 per cent, would be included.
A total of 141 roads have been replaced on gritting routes.
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for streetscene, said: “We are making real changes to the original proposals, based on the responses we received.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the changes represented a partial ‘U-turn’ by the Labour council.
“Sheffield’s Labour councillors claimed they had no choice but to stop gritting these roads, but we knew all along that wasn’t true,” said Mr Clegg. “I’m pleased at least some residents have gained a reprieve.”
As originally planned, top priority roads – which cover main arterial links and the busiest routes across the city – and snow clearance work will not be affected.
The amended proposals are expected to be given the go-ahead by the council’s Highways Cabinet Committee next Friday, August 29.
But the changes still mean many roads will go without precautionary treatment as the council looks to save £100,000 from its budget.
And 14 extra roads have been selected additionally to lose precautionary gritting. They include Meersbrook Park Road, Verdon Street in Pitsmoor, Twentywell Road at Bradway and Raisen Hall Road in Longley.
Around 59 per cent of Sheffield’s road network is currently gritted as a precaution. In future 51 per cent of roads will be served – one per cent up on the originally proposed 50 per cent.
A report said the number of people affected by the removal of precautionary gritting routes is ‘low’.
But it added: “Some may need to change their routes to travel on gritted roads.”
Coun Scott said: “We received some very detailed responses from the public to our consultation. We have made every effort to listen.
“If these recommendations are accepted, Sheffield would still provide the highest level of winter maintenance service of local authorities across the country – including areas with a similar topography to Sheffield.”
Major bus routes and roads with a main entrance to a school, doctor’s surgery or other public facility will retain their services.
But changes will be made to the number of grit bins, and no new snow wardens will be recruited for future years.
Mark Lopez; Managing Director at De-ice responds:
When news came out around these potential cuts, I commented on the cause for concern and my support for the ‘Keep Bradfield Gritted’ campaign. It is positive to see that Sheffield Council has made this U-turn.
As I have previously stated, county councils are responsible for all winter maintenance. They have a duty, as far as is practicably possible, to ensure the safety of the highway user when snow and ice are present. Cutting winter budgets, and reducing the number of roads that are treated is a recipe for disaster. Councils need to take into consideration the possible legal action that could be taken as a result of someone slipping and badly injuring themselves on an untreated road or pathway.
In the months prior to winter, we witness an increase in calls from private businesses who are proactively putting in place robust contingency winter maintenance plans. Councils should demonstrate an equal commitment when it comes to winter safety.
As we move towards winter, we continue to monitor whether further councils will announce cuts – almost inevitable as government cuts and funding in these areas come under increased pressure.
Last year we had a mild winter, but what everyone needs to remember is that no two winters are ever the same.