Council’s winter readiness preparations are paying dividends

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LESSONS learned from the problems of previous winters have helped Northumberland County Council cope with the recent cold snap.

Operational performance over the past two weeks, when temperatures fell as low as -4°C in parts of north Northumberland, has been deemed ‘very good’ by Andy Rutherford, head of highways and neighbourhood services.

“All routes without exception have been covered within the timescale set out within the winter service policy,” he told councillors.

The council believes it is critical to be properly prepared for the coming months given the harsh winters of recent years.

Among the steps it has taken has been the purchase of two new gritters which are stationed in the north of the county.

“Provision of these new vehicles has now enabled two of the existing vehicles to be used as back-up when any front-line vehicle is off the road, giving greater resilience,” he told the economic and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee.

There is a shortfall of four drivers in the northern rota which have been backfilled with drivers and tractor gritter drivers off the council’s winter service framework.

However, an approach has been made to the fire and rescue and waste services teams to try and recruit further driver volunteers for the remainder of the winter.

At the beginning of last week, the council had around 24,000 tonnes of salt in stock. Another 14,000 tonnes is currently being delivered. Nine new grit bins, many on steep hills, junctions and next to fords, have been introduced in north Northumberland this winter.

Farmers and heavy plant contractors are contracted to provide additional support after heavy snowfall in the more rural areas. So far this winter in the north of the county, two subcontractors have been called out on six occasions to help with gritting.

Mr Rutherford also revealed that the snow squad voluntary groups set up in Wooler, Bamburgh, Belford and Glanton were also well prepared.

The Wooler team has recently been issued with a further 12 high-visibility vests and 12 snow shovels due to growing numbers.

The council is also continuing to provide regular weather alerts and road treatment measures on its website,

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