Flurry of protest at new gritting policy

Snow pics, Buxton, a gritter reverses between parked cars in Fairfield
Snow pics, Buxton, a gritter reverses between parked cars in Fairfield

Changes to the way Derbyshire’s roads are gritted have been approved – despite major concerns and a petition against the policy with more than 3,000 signatures.

Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet agreed to introduce primary and secondary routes and to add a tertiary category at their meeting on Tuesday.

The ruling Conservative Group believe the move will make gritting Derbyshire’s roads easier to manage; help prevent overspending of the gritting budget; grit and clear snow from more of the county’s roads and make better use of staff and equipment.

Councillor Simon Spencer, Deputy Leader of DCC and Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said the overwhelming majority, 76 per cent of the 913 people who responded during the 12-week consultation, agreed to the move.

“Unfortunately, we can’t grit every road in the county – we just don’t have the money. But we’ll continue to grit the same amount – at least 47 per cent.

“Last year we spent £4.5 million on gritting and snow clearance – an overspend of £1 million. There’s £4.5 million available again this year but we can’t afford to overspend again.”

In light of the consultation some changes are being made to the gritting routes proposed with schools, health centres and other community facilities given higher priority.

They will be included on primary routes where possible and where this isn’t possible, the council will make sure there is a primary route close by.

Where possible, priority will also be given to old people’s nursing and residential homes previously not included on gritting routes by including them on tertiary routes.

But the move has been slammed by Councillor Anne Western, Leader of the Labour Group, who claims the cuts have been pushed through despite public concern.

She said only 913 people responded because many residents found the form confusing and didn’t allow them to express their views adequately and that a public petition against the cuts which had gained in excess of 3,000 signatures.

Cllr Western said there were problems for council staff struggling to work out the new routes and shift patterns and that one gritter driver had written to the Advertiser apologising for “the chaos that will ensue if we have a winter as bad as last year.”

She said: “We were so concerned about these cuts that we ran our own survey and although we don’t have the resources to reach every Derbyshire household, we achieved a much higher response rate than the official consultation.”

Over 95 per cent stated that the winter gritting budget should be a high priority.

Councillor Western added, “After the last two severe winters it is madness to cut this budget by 28 per cent.

“We have pledged that when Derbyshire Labour are re-elected in 2013 we will reverse the winter maintenance cuts and restore the missing million pounds.”

l Maps of the gritting routes are currently being updated in light of the consultation and will be available at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/snow soon.