Snow gritter

Several key commuter roads in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge are among roads across Somerset that could become more treacherous if snow and ice returns this winter due to council cutbacks, it has emerged.

Somerset County Council has this week proposed cutting precautionary gritting routes – where roads are gritted in advance of wintry weather – from 23 to 16 as part of a bid to save £15million by the year 2020.

If the changes are approved by the County Council’s Cabinet on September 12th, several local roads will be deleted from the programme. These include Burnham Road, the Causeway through Mark, Watchfield and East Huntspill, plus Bennett Road in Highbridge.

The council has published its proposal to cut routes in a document on its website ahead of the cabinet meeting in Taunton on September 12th.

The proposal is one of more than 70 options which the council is considering in order to generate £15m in savings, of which £13m must come before the end of the financial year – as reported here.

The council estimates that it can generate £120,000 in savings by cutting the gritting routes across the county.

It is also proposing to remove all roadside salt supplies over the winter months to save a further £40,000 – meaning that residents may not be able to clear public pavements or footpaths if they get icy or covered with snow.

In a risk assessment published this week, the County Council concedes that the changes could hit rural areas the hardest and also harm the elderly and vulnerable.

“The proposals do have a greater impact on rural areas. Rural areas do have a larger proportion of older residents than urban areas,” says the council report.

“The proposals could impact on access to schools and education facilities for children and young people. The proposal will make the rural highway network, including foot-ways, less accessible and more hazardous than previously.”

“The reduced number of gritting routes will mean that less of the network will be treated in anticipation of frost, ice and snow. It will thus be less available for use by pregnant and new mothers and their support team and, if used, more
hazardous to drive on.”

They are among scores of roads routes that could be cut – including Exmoor National Park, the Brendon Hills, the Mendip Hills and the Quantock Hills – which are among the first to bear the brunt of bad weather.

The M5 is the responsibility of Highways England, and will not be affected by the council’s decision.

The council adds that the changes would be “mitigated by the continuation of any reactive or emergency works required.”