Westminster takes no chances over snow preparations

Council’s new hi-tech machines will tackle snow to keep roads running

BOSSES at Westminster Council have vowed to keep roads running this winter in the event of snow with a new fleet of hi-tech gritting machines.

With snow forecast for this weekend, council chiefs have unveiled six new gritters fitted with satellite positioning technology, which will be used in conjunction with computer-controlled temperature sensors across the borough to see which roads need salting.

But they have also called on residents to use common sense and do their own bit to help by rolling up their sleeves and clearing any snow the old-fashioned way – with shovels.

Westminster Council leader Colin Barrow said: “We’ll be doing our bit, and we have plenty of grit and manpower to ensure the city keeps moving. But we also need a return to common sense and for people not to be afraid to pitch in and help themselves and anyone else who may be vulnerable in the cold weather.

“This includes checking in on that elderly or disabled neighbour and if necessary, picking up a shovel and clearing away any compacted ice and snow which may making an area dangerous. We’ve taken our own legal advice on this, and as long as people do it properly, they have nothing to fear.”

Last year Westminster came under fire from residents who accused the council of treating them like ‘second class citizens’ for failing to grit their pavements ahead of snowfall during a cold snap.

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On the Fisherton estate near Edgware Road some residents, including Sandra Henderson, were left house-ridden for four days because of the treacherous conditions underfoot.

But this time round the council is taking no chances and has stockpiled more than three times as much grit as the previous winter, with reserves topping 1,500 tonnes and more available as soon as gritting begins.

As many as 600 staff will be on standby to be drafted in from across the waste and parks departments if snowfall is heavy.

A fleet of flatbed transit vans normally used to collect street litter is also on standby and will be converted to send grit to care homes for the elderly, schools and community centres and anywhere else in need.

Last year Westminster was the first council in the country to tell people to ignore overzealous health and safety rules and pick up their shovels and salt without fear. The council’s advice on how to clear snow properly so as to prevent any legal threats, has now been adopted by the government and issued in advice packs sent to every local authority in the UK as part of a national Snow Code.

Labour leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, who was critical of the council’s efforts in combatting the snow last year, congratulated the council on making fuller provisions this time around.

He said: “Let’s hope that if we do get some severe weather this year, the pavements and roads will be gritted quickly and effectively.”

In neighbouring Camden more than 150 groups have requested shovels which the council has offered up as one way to deal with the snow.