Snow? This year you’ll have to help dig us out

‘DIG yourselves out’ was the message from Camden Council this week as it was revealed thousands of shovels are being given to residents to help in the battle to keep roads and pavements clear of snow this winter.

The council has put in place plans to dish out more than 2,000 shovels to community centres and groups, shopkeepers and individuals to get them to pitch in if the weather turns icy.

Last winter, severe cold snaps in December and January brought the nation and Camden to a standstill, when inches of snow fell and turned roads and pavements into dangerous ice-rinks.

People were trapped in their homes and the council was heavily criticised for only gritting the main roads, leaving it up to residents to clear most of the borough’s side roads and pavements.

But this year the council is actively promoting just that – setting up a system where residents can ring and request a shovel and get digging themselves.

The notion that it is residents’ responsibility has been met by a mixed reaction.

Eleanor Botwright, director of the Castlehaven Community Centre, said: “It is not quite dig your own grave but it is a double-edged sword. In some instances I am sure it will be helpful. But if people pay their council tax, that is supposed to be used for that. And what happens to the weak and the frail or people with buggies.”

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Chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, Tony Hillier, added: “I think it is a daft idea. All the shovels will be stolen.

“More grit bins everywhere is what is needed – that would be much more sensible.”

Swiss Cottage councillor Andrew Marshall has praised the idea as the “Big Society in action” and others have welcomed the plans.

Kentish Town Community Centre manager Justina Forristal said: “This will be positive. We have a long driveway and we need to clear it when it snows so people can reach us – we have a lot of elderly and little people who come. The idea of helping the community and working together is great.”

Manager of the Community Association of West Hampstead Laurence Higgens added: “This seems like a good plan and people would definitely pitch in – I don’t think they expect the council to do it all. It will bring the community together to help out older people and people with prams.”

The Met Office announced in March this year that is would no longer issue “seasonal forecasts” after it came under fire for failing to predict the freezing winter last year.

But, according to other weather experts, we can expect a cold, dry December and January with temperatures widely lower than average.

Environment boss, Cllr Sue Vincent, said the scheme was in response to frustration last year that people wanted to clear roads but didn’t have the tools.

She said: “With the budget cuts we are facing, we know that there is a likelihood we are not going to be able to get to every street we would like to. So we are trying to ensure that if people want to, they have the means to help clear roads and pavements.

“We are not going to hand them out and say now start digging. People will be given health and safety advice and help but it is really common sense.”