Derbyshire County Council defends gritting operation after heavy snow causes chaos

Rod Kirkpatrick's picture shows the ugly side of the snow.

Rod Kirkpatrick's picture shows the ugly side of the snow.

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Highways chiefs have defended their gritting operation after the heaviest snowfall of the winter caused widespread chaos in Derbyshire.

The snow covered the county on Boxing Day night, leading to several hours of travel mayhem.

On many routes across the county, traffic came to a standstill with some drivers forced to abandon their cars.

Three days after the snowfall, a number of side roads and pavements remain untreated and treacherous.

The snow had been forecast days before by the Met Office – which warned Derbyshire to expect up to 15cm of wintry showers and travel disruption.

Our newsroom has been inundated with hundreds of complaints from residents who claim Derbyshire County Council – which is responsible for highways – has presided over a gritting “fiasco”.

Reader Sammy Jo Wilkinson said: “We all pay our taxes so why haven’t the roads been gritted? I haven’t seen a single gritter.”

Asa Duffy said: “There was plenty of warning about this weather. I am sick of paying into a system that lets folk down time and time again.”

Brendan Carroll added: “Your newspaper recently showed the new gritters bought by the council. It’s a shame they haven’t been put to use.”

Responding to the complaints, Councillor Dean Collins, the county council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: “Snow on Boxing Day fell thick and fast beyond anything that had been previously forecast and in a relatively short space of time.

“Conditions were made more difficult because we couldn’t grit the roads before it snowed as it was raining heavily and rain washes grit away.

“We haven’t cut our gritting service or gritting budget and our new gritting vehicles were to replace old with new, not an added extra.

“Our gritting staff were out non-stop in the snow on Boxing Day and the following day and have continued to grit at regular intervals, focusing on primary routes first before tackling secondary routes. I’d like to thank them for their efforts and giving up their time over Christmas to help keep Derbyshire roads as clear as possible.

“But spreading grit is only the start of the de-icing process. To be effective, it needs traffic to churn it into the snow and there wasn’t much traffic on the roads on Boxing Day.

“Grit doesn’t work when snow is more than a few centimetres deep. We have to plough fresh snow first which makes gritting difficult in heavy snow. It also has limited impact on icy surfaces which have formed over the past few days due to thawing and re-freezing.

“We look after more than 3,000 miles of roads in Derbyshire. We grit around half – which is more than most councils – and we’re doing all we can with the limited resources we have.”

Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the Conservatives on the Labour-led council, said: “It’s been a real gritting fiasco.”