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Grit running dry as snow showers cause major disruption

PUBLISHED: 13:56 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:41 07 September 2010

CAMDEN and Barnet Councils are days away from running out of grit in the face of the longest cold snap in almost 30 years and many more inches of snow. Despite ordering tonnes of extra grit, the two local authorities are still waiting for m

Susanna Wilkey

CAMDEN and Barnet Councils are days away from running out of grit in the face of the longest cold snap in almost 30 years and many more inches of snow.

Despite ordering tonnes of extra grit, the two local authorities are still waiting for much needed deliveries.

The excessive amount of snow caused by unusual polar winds coming in from the northeast, has meant councils have had to use abnormally high levels of grit to keep traffic moving.

The big freeze is set to continue with plummeting temperatures today and more heavy snowfall predicted for the rest of the week, with temperatures remaining close to freezing.

Deputy leader of Camden, Cllr Andrew Marshall, said: "We are not at crisis point yet but we don't have a lot of days of grit left. It is not because it has not been ordered, it is because it has not arrived. We have spread more than 200 tonnes over the last 18 hours.

"There has been an unprecedented amount of heavy snow in the last couple of weeks and we are working with London Councils, Boris Johnson and the government to get more grit urgently."

A spokesman for Barnet Council said it has enough grit to last until the end of the week and has had 2,000 tonnes on order from before Christmas, but is still awaiting delivery.

He added: "With severe weather hitting nearly the whole country, grit is likely to be in short supply."

The two councils' levels are in stark comparison to the organisation of grit at Westminster Council which has more than 500 tonnes stockpiled and had nine deliveries on Monday and Tuesday, allowing it to prioritise pavement gritting.

Camden Council was criticised during the pre-Chirstmas whiteout for failing to stop side roads and pavements turning into ice rinks.

It has vowed it is ready for the next onslaught with more than 200 staff on standby, but criticisms have already been levelled.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Hampstead, Linda Chung said: "It's of little use gritting the main roads if everyone is marooned in the side streets. When are these smaller streets going to get attention? You have to ask is the council going to be sued if people hurt themselves falling over on streets that haven't been gritted."

Cllr Marshall said pavements in high footfall areas such as town centres, hospitals, doctors' surgeries, schools and tube stations are being gritted as a priority alongside roads.

"Every road in the borough got at least one coating of grit on Tuesday night and there is a lot of work going on with the pavements," he said.

"If people want to grit their own pavements there are lots of boxes across the borough and we would obviously encourage people to do that."

Meanwhile in Barnet the council has prioritised key main roads and public transport routes, leaving residents to grit their own pavements.

Child's Hill councillor Susette Palmer said: "It seems to me very unfair on people who don't drive cars.

"The council's attitude seems to be that there are bins, do it yourselves, but this is the council's job."

The Barnet spokesman added: "We always prioritise main roads because that keeps public transport running and keeps the borough working.

"We have 300 grit boxes around the borough, which allows residents to grit their own pavements. We grit pavements in town centres and around transport facilities."

Meanwhile The Royal Free Hospital has cancelled all non urgent outpatient appointments today because of the disruption.

On Tuesday night key staff were put up in local hotels to ensure emergency services could continue.

o For more snow news see page 6 and for updates, go to www.hamhigh.co.uk.


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