Weather: Grit supplies ordered from abroad as stockpile dwindles

GRIT and salt are beginning to run short across Suffolk and highway officials are being forced to order further supplies from abroad – at a higher cost to council taxpayers.

About 5,000 tonnnes of grit are expected to be delivered this week after it was revealed that Suffolk County Council has already used 12,000 tonnes this winter – and that was before this weekend’s heavy snowfall.

The council’s full complement of 40 gritters were out in force on Saturday night to try to ease the treacherous road conditions after one of the heaviest snowfalls in recent memory.

But with just 6,000 tonnes left in reserve, the council has bought in further supplies from abroad to replenish its dwindling stockpile of salt.

Guy McGregor, portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning, said: “I called in at the gritting command on Saturday evening to make sure things were in place. We decided then to pull the gritters off the minor roads to go back on the major routes to get them in a better condition as quickly as possible.

“We have got two more boat loads of grit to replenish our barns before Christmas, although of course the problem is that if the temperature falls more than ten below freezing, then the salt isn’t that good at dispersing the snow.”

He added: “We were as prepared as we could have been. We have been using a fair amount of grit and salt and we have actually now, unfortunately, had to buy in from abroad, which does make it more expensive.

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“But we are committed to helping the people of Suffolk and what needs to be done must be done.”

The situation was so bad over the weekend that council bosses were forced to call upon dozens of farmers across south-east Suffolk, who are under contract to help out with clearing snow in emergencies.

Mr McGregor warned that many of the more minor roads will be difficult to travel on today as gritting has been confined to major routes.

Meanwhile, Essex county councillor, Norman Hume, who is responsible for highways and transportation, said: “Our winter gritters have done an excellent job in what has been a very challenging winter so far, and are continuing to work day and night to keep the county’s main roads moving when needed.

“We are closely monitoring weather forecasts and will be treating the main network as required. I would urge residents to travel with extreme caution at this time, allowing extra time for their journeys and checking the latest weather and traffic updates before they travel.”

The extra grit supplies are expected to see the region through Christmas and January despite the adverse weather conditions. Recent figures showed Suffolk County Council spread as much salt in November as they did throughout the whole of last winter.