Weather: Cutback in gritting as stocks fall

FEWER roads are to be spread with salt – and less will be used – in a bid to ration supplies until the New Year as Suffolk struggles to cope with its coldest winter for nearly 30 years.

The county council’s fleet of 40 salt spreaders will be covering only priority one routes – all A and B roads – over the coming days in a bid to ensure the stockpile, which is being topped up this week, is sufficient to cope with the demands.

Despite starting the winter with nearly 20,000 tonnes of salt, there is now just 2,200 tonnes in storage with another 2,200 expected to be delivered in two loads today or tomorrow.

And the spreaders are set to distribute a thinner layer on the roads they are still working on, in a bid to ensure that the county’s main network stays safe.

A spokesman said: “After the weekend our salt stocks are reduced. We are hoping for delivery from the strategic stockpile.

“What we are going to do is to just treat priority one roads now, that’s all A and B roads as well as routes to hospitals and fire stations. The priority two roads, we’re not going to treat them now.

“We’ll also be putting it (salt) out at a reduced rate. We are rationing it. We feel this will get us through to the New Year when we are anticipating further supplies.

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“Our gritters have done a fantastic job.”

In Essex, salt is proving more plentiful and the county’s 65 grit spreaders are still covering all routes around the clock.

And with most of the region’s roads remaining accessible, the county is coping well in the inclement conditions.

Nurses, doctors and even patients have been using a fleet of 4x4s to get to and from work, bin collections have been struggling through the snow and meals on wheels distributers have been braving the roads to help elderly residents have hot meals.

A fantastic show of community support has meant life has continued across Suffolk, while some parts have been hit much harder than others.

Ipswich Hospital has been utilising the Suffolk Rover Rescue service to help get patients back home safely and enable staff to make it in to work. Not one operation has been scrapped so far, as some staff have been sleeping at the site to enable them to fulfil their shifts.

Also in Ipswich, the Community Meals scheme, known as meals on wheels, has been backed up by 4X4 drivers to help ensure that as many elderly residents as possible are reached under the trying conditions.

Suffolk Coastal District Council issued a statement saying its brown bin crews had been issued with spades to dig out the contents of the frozen brown bins and the council has pledged to do all it can to make sure main refuse collections are carried out.

A spokesman said: “Any collections that prove difficult or hazardous may be delayed as the weather is not forecast to improve or rise above freezing all week, but it is our intention to ensure all collections are made and everything is done by Christmas Eve.

“If there are any bins that are not collected please leave them out and refuse teams will get to them as soon as possible.”

Ipswich Borough Council had extra staff out spreading grit on the streets but the Old Cemetery in the north of the town was closed because paths were “treacherous.”

Crown Pools also experienced problems with pipes and temperature control yesterday, resulting in no swimming taking place.

A Mid Suffolk District Council spokesman said the authority’s street cleaning teams had been drafted in to help spread grit by hand.

“Our teams have suspended normal duties and are all out gritting – many of them are having to change their hours to start early to get town centre areas and staff areas cleared before others are around and they are working overtime to cover weekends.,” she said.

“We are only a small team and do not have the capacity or vehicles that the county council do so all of our gritting is completed manually – we have just two push-along spreaders, the others use shovels and barrows.”