Pressure grows on county council to reinstate Northampton gritting routes after accidents

A Labour parliamentary candidate has formally urged the county council to reinstate 200 miles of roads to its gritting network after a bus ploughed into a car in his ward last week.

Monday, 28th January 2019, 3:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:30 pm
County councillor for Dallington and Spencer Gareth Eales is urging the council to reinstate a number of gritting routes across the county.

Councillor for Dallington and Spencer Gareth Eales, who is running to become the MP in Northampton South, has requested the county council reinstates those routes axed from its routine gritting cycle last year.

In October, the authority made the decision to remove some 200 miles from its pre-gritting schedule in order to save £475,000 this financial year.

But, a number of accidents have already been reported on roads that were once gritted.

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The bus crash in Welland Walk, Kings Heath.

On Thursday morning (January 24) a bus skidded on the slippery surface in Welland Walk, Kings Heath, before colliding with a stationary vehicle.

"What is key here is that Welland Walk is one of the roads taken off the winter gritting route by Northamptonshire County Council last October as part of a £475,000 savings plan," said Councillor Eales in a Facebook video.

"I made objections at the time lodging formal concerns about the safety of that proposition.

"Senior people in this authority disagreed with me that this would be unsafe and I take no pleasure in being proved right."

Councillor Eales said the county council foresaw that the savings measure could result in an increase in collisions on the roads.

The cabinet papers from the October 9 meeting at which the gritting routes were axed did outline a number of risks with the proposal.

One of them noted the council could be hit with "increased insurance claims associated with accidents on ungritted roads which would have previously been gritted."

Speaking about the Dallington and Spencer area, he said: "I remain desperately worried about affected roads as all are either bus routes or adjacent to a school or nursery, in some cases both.

"People's lives are at risk and it is incumbent on any local authority to prioritise safety."

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The MP for Corby and East Northants, Tom Pursglove, has also called on the leaders of Northamptonshire county council to urgently review the controversial reduced winter gritting service and a petition to reinstate the routes now has 2,250 signatures.

Among the incidents last week, police in Daventry said that a request to grit a road that had turned into an ice rink was refused by the council.

A woman later slid down the hill and crashed her car.

Mr Pursglove has written a letter to the county council’s leader Matt Golby and contacted the council’s chief executive Theresa Grant about his concerns.

Northamptonshire County Council leader, Councillr Matt Golby, said: “Whenever the council introduces a new policy we closely monitor the impact the decision has had and it is no different in this instance.

“Keeping traffic moving safely in wintery weather is a priority and I’m working with Highways to gain a greater understanding of how the policy is working.

“Before 2008, we gritted about 34 per cent of the network and in 2008, this was increased to 45 per cent.

“The current gritting levels are in line with those prior to the change before 2008 which is comparable to other local authorities.

“All of the routes removed from the precautionary, priority one network were added to what is known as the adverse, priority two network – the roads which are only treated in extreme adverse weather.

“These roads are pre-treated in advance of high confidence of forecasted snow or when the forecast temperatures are not to rise above zero for 48 hours.”