Suffolk’s grit mountain set to remain in place over the summer after mild winter

Wayne Saunders of Suffolk Highways in front of the stockpiles grit at thr Goddard Road depot.

Wayne Saunders of Suffolk Highways in front of the stockpiles grit at thr Goddard Road depot.

Suffolk is not known for its mountains, but there is a sprawling salt pile growing at a depot in Ipswich.

The county’s gritters have only used a quarter of the stockpile of rock salt on the county’s roads during one of the mildest winters on record, it has emerged.

So far this winter the team of gritting lorries has been out just 51 times – and the forecast for the next 10 days suggests temperatures are getting milder again.

That figure is less than the previous low of 66 runs in 2013/14. Last winter there were 100 runs and in 2012/13 149 runs.

During the harsh winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 the county needed reinforcements of grit to keep the roads clear – but over recent winters salt barns have been left with a surplus that can be left for the following year.

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So far this year about 5,000 tonnes of salt has been used out of 19,000 tonnes stored up at the start of the season.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said it was not possible to estimate the savings the council had made because of the reduced number of runs because the money would go into reserve funds that could be called on in future harsh winters.

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Vehicles are now much more efficient when spreading grit – last year’s 100 runs saw 18,500 tonnes spread compared with this year’s figure of 5,000 tonnes from 51 runs.

The spokesman added: “Our gritting routes cover half the roads in the county, including all the main roads.

“Almost 1,250 miles of Suffolk’s road network receive precautionary treatment to keep them ice-free. The county has 39 gritters with 110 trained drivers.”

In his report to the full meeting of the county council next week, cabinet member for highways James Finch says: “Whilst wintry weather may occur any time up to Easter, with the days now lengthening, the likelihood of extended periods of severe weather is decreasing.

“Rotas for our drivers and decision-makers will continue in place until the end of April.”

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