This paper sets out the statutory duties and requirements that the Council is required to perform to ensure that its highway network is safe in wintery conditions.
Ian Hawthorn, Head of Highway Maintenance, and Projects, presented the report and said that the existing winter policy was currently under review to carry out precautionary footway gritting. The review would consider more protection for footways from lessons learnt from previous snow falls, the resources required and provision for a salt barn. He showed slides that highlighted the current work carried out by the service. The service was split between the Transport & Highways and Waste Management departments to manage the gritting of roads and footways. The winter maintenance period began on 1 November to 31 March and during this period the Council received three forecasts from the Councils weather forecast consultant Meteogroup within 24 hours.
Four officers were on duty during the winter months and were the responsible decision makers for sending out the gritter teams across the borough. Officers would also analyse the forecast and made decisions on what gritting needed to be undertaken to meet the likely hazards on the roads. Furthermore, going forward weather forecasts provided by Transport for London (TfL) would also be considered during the decision-making process. The road network was split into three priority routes with the remaining roads in a default route. P1 covered all the main and high-risk routes and P2 compromised of medium use roads and of some strategic importance.
Councillor David Morton said that feedback received from residents highlighted the condition of the footpaths during the winter months. He commented that this needed to be prioritised and asked what actions were taken. In response, Ian Hawthorn said that this would be factored in as part of the review. Furthermore, a hot spot map to track high priority locations would be designed to deliver services more effectively.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler asked how much salt provision was required since February 2018. Ian Hawthorn said that 800 tonnes of salt provision was used. Each borough determined their salt provision based on the weather conditions for the area, however additional supplies could be accessed from other boroughs if this was necessary in future. She also mirrored Councillor David Morton’s concerns around the condition of the pavements during the wintery months, especially on Munster Road. She noted that snow turned into ice very quickly last year and greater emphasis needed to be placed on gritting pavements for all residents in the borough.
A resident said that the Brackenbury Residents Association were keen to understand if the Council would consider enforcing a local bylaw to ensure that residents swept outside their houses to make the pavements safer during snowfall. Ian Hawthorn said that the council does encourage street cleaning and self-help methods were available to residents.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler asked for an indication of any accidents that occurred last year. Ian Hawthorn said that this wasn’t a large number as residents adhered to the Met Office weather warnings and took extra caution, however the exact numbers could be provided after the meeting. The Chair, referring to the report asked why there was greater empathise on vehicles rather than pedestrians. Ian Hawthorn said that this was because the Council was following the legislation and needed to ensure that the code of practice was met. However, the focus would be brought back to footways and was currently under review.
The Chair asked if officers were satisfied with the performance of the contractor’s and whether there was any room for improvement. Ian Hawthorn noted that FM Conveys and Serco Group were leading experts on this matter and had worked well in collaboration with the Council and the information centre. Overall the Council was satisfied with their performance. FM Conveys were reactive during snowfall and did three gritting runs a day, given that snow was forecasted at a later stage.
Councillor Ann Rosenburg suggested that rather just focusing on individual spots, gritting should be extended further and asked what proposals had been put forward. Ian Hawthorn explained that the Council was in the process of identifying high risk areas and this information would be available on the Council website once this was determined. In addition, Councillor Ann Rosenburg noted that further empathise needed to be placed on venerable locations where schools and elderly residents were situated. In addition, Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler asked for Churches and other places of worship to be included as a priority for gritting. Ian Hawthorn explained that safety advice would be accessible to residents on the Council’s website once the review was completed. The Chair asked for the safety advice to be distributed to Care Homes, Schools, and Churches as well as published on the website.
A resident asked if the expansion of the gritting strategy had any financial implications to the budget. Ian Hawthorn explained that this was a cost neutral proposal and to accommodate precautionary footway gritting, the Council would look at reviewing the resources and applying them more effectively. A financial implication would only arise from the Serco Group contract if there was a need to catch up ahead of schedule for the roads not cleaned due to gritting.
Councillor Wesley Harcourt said that schools across the borough were closed last year due to the poor weather conditions and routes to schools had not been gritted which meant that schools could not be accessed. He noted that lengthening the gritting routes was important and would be considered part of the strategy.
That the Committee reviewed and commented upon the report.