A decision to install grit bins at key locations in Crewkerne was deferred by Crewkerne Town Council at the September meeting of the Planning & Highways Committee. Town councillors were aware of Somerset County Council’s proposed cuts to roadside salt supplies and agreed to bring the issue back on the agenda at a future meeting, when they had costed the raw materials needed and arranged storage facilities.
The issue was first raised by councillor Katy Pritchard at a town council meeting in March, after the blast of Siberian weather with snow and ice made driving on side roads treacherous and walking on pavements dangerous. At the time, councillor Katy Pritchard said: “This needs to be discussed and we need to look into where the gritting bins are and possibly providing more for the future.”
At a Cabinet meeting of Somerset County Council at Shire Hall in Taunton on September 12th, the proposed cuts to the gritting budget were approved. The funding of all roadside salt supplies for public use, in the yellow bins for people to clear footpaths, will be removed for the 2018/19 winter. By doing this SCC who have ‘serious financial pressures’ estimate savings of £40,000. In addition, the number of precautionary salting routes – council gritting roads ahead of forecast wintry weather, will be cut from 23 to 16.
The cuts will remove gritting from roads linking Somerset to other counties, from settlements 500 feet or more above sea level, as well as cutting out gritting on link roads between major settlements. The estimated savings on these are £120,000. Crewkerne link roads that will be affected include the A3066 Haselbury Plucknett/North Perrott, Broadshard Road, and Merriott Road. East Street in West Coker is also on the list of roads that will not be gritted by Highways at SCC. Councillor Woodman of Highways said: “Everything proposed regarding gritting meets our code of practice and we Somerset County Council are satisfied that we are fulfilling our statutory duties.”
Crewkerne was not alone in experiencing the severe weather conditions in March. When the big thaw came, main routes which had previously been gritted by Highways cleared much quicker than roads which had not been treated. For many local residents, who were trapped in their homes for several more days due to melting snow and freezing rain making side roads and pavements ‘sheets of ice’, the recent decision by SCC regarding the gritting budget has been met with dismay and anger.
Existing grit-salt bins in Crewkerne also need to be replenished before the winter season and residents remain hopeful that Crewkerne Town Council will act sooner rather than later to fully address the gritting issue, as they fear the long hot summer may be a precursor to a long harsh winter.