Mother Nature had the roads to herself during the snow: Coun Kevin Greaves

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The county council has faced a lot of criticism over the last couple of weeks, ever since the heavy snowfall on Boxing Day night.

I’d like to take this opportunity to make it clear exactly what the county council does – and doesn’t do – in wintry weather, and explain what happened over that weekend.

The weather forecast for Boxing Night was for rain in the evening, followed by snow some time after midnight.

You can’t treat roads during rain as it would simply wash all the salt away.

We were set to go out immediately after the rain but in the event, as we all know, the snow arrived unexpectedly early.

Our 23 crews reported early for duty, as soon as it became clear what the situation was.

These were the men who were on standby all over the Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year period and who, like the rest of us, would have much preferred to have been spending time with their families.

In the event, on Boxing Night, they completed three consecutive runs of the 1,000-mile gritting network, finishing by 10.15am the next morning, with three further runs taking place throughout Saturday.

Despite what people think, however, no amount of gritting can prevent that amount of snow from settling on our roads without a bit of help.

Like every other highway authority in the country, we use rock salt to help clear our roads – and it needs vehicle movement to help grind it into the snow and ice, turning it to slush.

On Boxing Night however, Mother Nature virtually had our roads to herself because the vast majority of motorists were tucked up at home enjoying the festive break with their families.

In fact, in some places our gritting crews were the only people out and about and I would like to pay tribute to them for doing such sterling work.

The other thing worth mentioning about rock salt is that it’s virtually white in appearance so you can’t always see it on the road – which may have led to some people thinking we hadn’t been out.

In total, our crews went out nine times over the course of that weekend, salting all main routes each time and helping to ensure that the vast majority of roads were passable with care.

You can rest assured that our gritting teams will continue to work hard to keep our roads and bus routes clear – round the clock, if necessary.

But we’re also asking residents to play their part by following the Government’s Snow Code, which gives advice on clearing snow and ice safely, and being prepared by stocking up on salt and grit themselves.

It says there’s no reason why people shouldn’t clear residential streets and pavements if they are able.

Because despite what many people think, we don’t salt residential side roads - we never have and to do so would cost an extra £5m a year.

Part of the problem is that, until recently, we’ve had years of relatively mild winters.

That’s meant that not only have people got out of the habit of clearing snow, but something of an urban myth has emerged that you shouldn’t do it in case you get fined.

It was because of this that a couple of years ago the Government issued the Snow Code which makes it quite clear what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to clearing paths, pavements and other public spaces.

You can read the code in full at www.direct.gov.uk, but the crux of it is that there is no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the footway outside your home or from public spaces provided you take sensible precautions and don’t make a bad situation worse.

So that’s good news – because it means we can all play our part this winter in helping to keep our county on the move.