Road plans, funeral help and 7,000 tonnes of salt - South Tyneside chiefs reveal winter emergency planning

Council bosses have stockpiled thousands of tonnes of salt to help keep South Tyneside moving this winter season.

Sunday, 1st December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 1st December 2019, 3:01 pm
South Tyneside Council chiefs are gearing up for the winter weather

This week, councillors received an update on the 2019/20 winter service which aims keep motorists and pedestrians safe across the borough.

As well as 7,000 tonnes of road salt stockpiled at the Middlefields depot, arrangements are in place for the provision of more if needed.

Meanwhile, more than 160 grit bins have been placed throughout the borough in readiness for snow and ice in coming months.

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“There are no major operational changes for this new winter season and applied learning has been from previous years experience,” cabinet member for area management and community safety, Coun Joan Atkinson, said.

“The core winter service comprises key elements and these are weather forecasts, trained winter managers and drivers, weather stations to collect real-time information, pre-agreed road and footpath salting routes, a written plan that pulls the elements together and a permanent night shift for responsive service.

“We have four gritting wagons which is one per main route and we also have a fifth vehicle in case of emergencies which provides essential resilience.

“In addition, there is a small tote trailer for tight estate roads during the long snow events [and] salt spreaders also contribute to the overall effectiveness of the service.”

Coun Atkinson was speaking at a recent meeting of full council on November 28 at South Shields Town Hall.

A report prepared for full council outlined a £268,000 winter budget towards gritting vehicles, driver salaries, salt purchases, weather forecasts and shovel hire.

Other plans include supporting funeral directors with services, issuing a government ‘snow code’ to residents and calling in extra staff when necessary.

At the meeting, members heaped praise on council staff and community groups for stepping up during severe weather events in the past.

This included the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018 which saw costs spiral to £305,331 in South Tyneside- with nearly two thirds spent on salt alone.

Coun David Francis asked what steps the council was taking to minimise disruption to household waste collections during future bad weather.

While Coun Angela Hamilton queried whether council social media channels could be used to publicise community resources and events.

Lead member, Coun Joan Atkinson, said mitigation was in place for severe weather with a focus on highways and footpaths.

She added she would ask “what more could be done” around providing information to the public through the council’s communications team.

Coun Jeff Milburn also defended the council’s record around winter waste collections in recent years.

“They might have been a little bit late sometimes but generally you have to take it the way it is, it’s extreme weather and everyone has to work together,” he said.

“There was a member in my ward who had an illness and special needs and they were actually snowed-in.

“I managed to get a gritter out at 1am in the morning and it came out and cleared that side street.

“So if anybody has any major problems it’s just a phone call and certainly the council deliver an excellent service.”

South Tyneside Council’s winter planning in numbers.

Weather forecasts: 36-hour forecast for South Tyneside, 10-day indicative forecast for resource planning, hourly forecast updates and road temperature estimates for a 36-hour period.

Bureau service: Three permanent weather stations located on the A1018 south of Cleadon, Hedworth Lane and Mill Lane,Hebburn.

Roads: 600km of roads in the borough, of which 160 km are included on four ‘priority one’ salting routes.

A normal overnight run for the routes uses 40 tonnes, although this can rise to 300 tonnes over 24 hours in “severe snow events.”

Paths: The borough has 1,100km of footpaths with salting carried out on “prioritised routes” such as shopping areas, schools, steep banks, steps and footbridges.

Around 165 grit bins are available for public and staff use and any requests for additional bins are considered on a case by case basis.