COUNCIL bosses are being forced to use sand from South Shields beaches to ease a growing grit crisis in the borough.
South Tyneside Council has around 550 tons of grit left, which
will run out after around three days if the authority continues to carry out its routine programme of covering 269kms of principal roads, bus routes, steep banks and important road links.
But council chiefs insist they will not let the grit run out and will instead cut back on gritting routes until they get another delivery.
And to help the depleted stocks, workers have been using sand blown from Littlehaven and Snadhaven Beaches, South Shields, to use on footpaths.
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A council meeting was called on Wednesday to discuss the grit shortage, caused by one of the worst winters to grip the country in recent times.
One councillor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "There is a grit crisis at South Tyneside Council at the moment.
"The situation has got so bad that the council are taking sand from the beach.
"I imagine every council in the North East will be facing the same problem."
On Wednesday the Government stepped in an reintroduced Salt Cell which will ration grit and salt supplies to local authorities.
Salt Cell includes the Highways Agency, Local Government Association (LGA), the Department for Transport (DfT) and devolved government.
A DfT spokesman said Salt Cell will make its decisions purely on how much salt councils have left, how many roads they have to grit and their forecasted weather.
Last month the Government recommended that councils should have enough salt to last six days of cold weather.
But the cold snap is now into its third week in some parts of the country.
The move also means yellow grit bins will not be refilled.
One 82-year-old resident, from the Cloisters, Harton, South Shields, said: "I contacted the council to refill the grit in the yellow bin near my house as the road was slippery.
"However, I was told it would not be refilled as the roads take priority."
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: "We are managing very difficult ongoing winter conditions with restricted grit supplies and will continue to keep the situation under review. We have plans for the management of our grit stocks to ensure that they last until a fresh delivery of grit can be made.
"Our staff will continue their work for as long as the conditions require and we appreciate the patience and understanding of our residents. We would appeal to road users to drive carefully and to only make journeys if they are absolutely necessary. The borough has a great community spirit so we are also encouraging people to look out for one another, particularly elderly and vulnerable residents."