Councils stockpile 1.4 million tonnes of salt in bid to keep roads clear

Councils have stockpiled 1.4 million tonnes of salt as they gear up to try to clear snow and ice on the roads this winter, according to new figures.

Preparations to tackle any big freeze or flooding this winter sees 94% of councils with either more salt in stock for this year or the same level as they did last year, according to the Local Government Association’s annual Winter Readiness Survey.

Funding pressures and limited resources mean that 55% of councils will share salt stocks, 30% will share gritting machinery and 22% plan to send staff to key locations across neighbouring areas when needed.

Salt and molasses is used for gritting
Salt and molasses is used for gritting

Sunderland City Council has 17,000 tonnes of salt stockpiled at its two depots, 15 gritters that can also be fitted with snow ploughs, and 36 tractors and mini-tractors that can be used for ploughing footpaths.

It may also use specialised weather forecasting that predicts estimated road surface temperatures.

Leicester County Council has packed five barns with up to 18,500 tonnes of rock salt and now has 23 gritters.

Community snow wardens may be sent out to grit paths, along with farmers who can fit ploughs to their tractors and help the council to clear roads during deep snow.

The LGA survey, of highway council bosses across England and Wales, also found that Luton Council is ready to tackle more than 142 miles of road with about 1,400 tonnes of salt.

It also has about 238 community salt bins at known trouble spots, such as sharp bends and steep hills, and lists the routes it salts when temperatures are below zero.

Croydon Council has 10 gritters. It also has 4,000 sandbags and is carrying out extra checks and cleaning of gullies in areas at high risk of flooding.

Hertfordshire County Council has offered free salt to community groups so they can help grit their streets.

It is also set to hand out salt to schools to try to keep them open during icy weather.

Winter weather
Winter weather

The LGA survey found that 72% of councils will be looking to use GPS to manage gritting and 80% will provide local communities with grit bins so residents can help themselves to salt.

Council leaders are also urging people to check that vulnerable friends, neighbours and relatives are safe when the big freeze bites.

LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett said: “Councils are constantly monitoring the weather, with up-to-the-minute reports to stay one step ahead.

“Depots are filled with 1.4 million tonnes of salt and gritters are ready to be deployed instantly to make sure our local roads are clear and open to our residents where possible.”

The survey comes as bands of heavy, thundery showers will bring a chance of flooding in south-west England through to Saturday.

The Met Office has issued a weather warning, set to last until Saturday at 6pm, for rain in south-west England.

Bands of heavy, thundery showers will bring a chance of #flooding in southwest England this evening and through Saturday… 🌦️⛈️🌦️ Stay

— Met Office (@metoffice) November 23, 2018

It said: “Bands of heavy, at times thundery, showers are expected to affect parts of southwest England from Friday morning until later on Saturday.

“Whilst most areas will see a rather wet spell, not everywhere will see the heaviest downpours.

“Where they do occur, 20-40 mm may fall in six to 12 hours, with perhaps around 50 mm falling in 24 hours – most likely across southeast-facing coasts and moors of Devon and Cornwall. Showers may also contain small hail at times.”

It could mean that a few homes and business could be flooded, bus and train journeys may take longer and there is spray and flooding on the roads.

It will also be chilly and temperatures will struggle to get into double figures, with 8C to 9C expected across England and Wales, 7C in southern Scotland, and 8C in Belfast, the Met Office said.