Monday, 3 January 2011

Councillors meet with Highways officers over Gritting Mayhem concerns

Last week we reported how my Birkdale Ward colleague Simon Shaw was due to lead a team of councillors to meet with senior Council officers to discuss widespread concerns over gritting and the clearance of snow.  This is the link: Councillors to meet with Highways officers over gritting mayhem

The meeting took place, as planned, last Wednesday, the first day back at work after the Christmas bank holiday break.  Simon and six other councillor colleagues from across Southport and Maghull travelled to Bootle and were able to have a frank exchange of views with three senior Council officers.

The team of councillors was on a cross-party basis, including both Lib Dems and Conservatives.  They left officers in no doubt about the very high level of public dissatisfaction with the conditions on the roads and pavements in Southport, Formby and Maghull for the 10 days or so from Saturday 18 December.

“There were many issues which we covered, and I know that other questions will be raised in the next few weeks,” reports Simon.  “Following the meeting I have been busy preparing a report which summarises our key thoughts as to where things went wrong, and how the Council could do better in the future.”

Some of the topics planned to be covered in Simon’s draft report include:

  • Councillors felt the Council failed to act as it should have done, and as the public and local businesses have a right to expect, in terms of the response to priority pavement locations (e.g. Chapel Street and Lord Street, Southport).

  • The Council should examine the pros and cons of much more extensive snow ploughing on some or all of the gritting routes within residential areas, especially in the first 24 hours after very heavy snowfall.  It is accepted that there are major difficulties with snow ploughing in residential areas.

  • There could have been more snow ploughing in the minority of local roads which are not residential (i.e. where the ploughed snow would not obstruct residents’ driveways).  In Southport this includes roads such as:
    • Coastal Road/Marine Drive
    • Esplanade/Victoria Way (roads near Dunes)
    • Marine Parade and Bridge
    • Fairway
    • Seaward end of Hesketh Road and of Marshside Road
    • Most bridges (as the presence of embankments means that are very few houses fronting onto a bridge)

  • The Council needs to improve its Emergency Incident procedures.  This is particularly the case where very severe weather conditions occur (as happened with the heavy snowfall a week before Christmas) at the start of a weekend.

  • It was noted that there are 3 demountable snow ploughs attachments for 8 gritters, and it is suggested that the Council should urgently consider purchasing (at least) 2 more.


  1. Rather than spending out on machinery, could the council consider sub-contracting the farmers to clear the roads in these extremes.

    Moss Lane, Churchtown was cleared by farm vehicle by the next morning because they wished to use the road.

  2. I cannot believe that there are only 3 snowploughs for the whole of Sefton, before the depot was moved to Maghull Southport alone had more than that!Why do the gritters have to return to re-load in Maghull. Time wasted to-ing and fro-ing is time not spent gritting!The short-sightedness of the Council officials beggars belief. Surely it is better to be prepared for the possibility of extreme weather than to stick ones head in the sand saying"it never happens here" Rationalisation and centralisation has gone too far for most peoples liking as it is clearly not working for the good of the taxpayers of Sefton.

  3. Last year I fell on the ice on Christmas Eve and broke my wrist. I was extremely angry about this as had the pavements been attended to properly I would not have had this accident. I was severly inconvenienced and in pain for several weeks. I was told I could not claim for the council's negligence. I "comforted" myself with the thought that that at least the next time we had snow the council would have formulated some sort of plan. Pardon my whilst I compose myself from my hysterical laughter. Fortuitously perhaps, this time we both had a severe case of one of the current viral infections going around so we could not go out anyway and luckily I have always kept a well stocked store cupboard. My husband and I are elderly and there is no way that we could have got out of our house even had we been fit enough. Our road is a main road, it remained in a dangerous state for the duration of the snow. with no gritters to be seen EVER!! I cannot imagine how people on less "busy" thoroughfares managed. I feel that the council owe us a refund of our concil tax, (fat chance) and at least those in charge are thoroughly penalised in their pockets!! The whole episode is disgraceful.

  4. Thank you all for your comments (and a special thanks to Mr Marshall for leaving his name). I have certainly been pushing hard for Sefton to use local farmers as part of the solution as the Visiter reported on Friday

    and I am sure that approach is the right one.

    Many farmers appear to have the necessary equipment. I would not be surprised if the last time a snow plough was used in anger by Sefton Highways was 1962!

  5. Hi, I am totally disgusted in Sefton council our roads were an absolute disgrace, the snow was not cleared from roads or pavements. I own holiday apartments in Southport plus my own home, I pay business rates and council tax and feel very let down by the service given or should I say lack of it.I had guests booked in for Christmas they drove all the way from Devon. The weather there was worse than Southport so I was told yet their council cleared all roads. They drove on the motorway and had no problems after eight hours driving they arrive in Southport and get stuck in the snow three times, having to be dug out and pushed by kind residents. When they finally arrived they were absolutely astounded at the state of our roads. I was prepared this year I bought alot of rock salt and two snow shovels. Three hours it took me clearing my forecourt so my guests could park their cars. I then cleared the pavement outside my property and put rocksalt down so passersby didn't slip. If I can be prepared then why can't the council. Why should I pay business rates and council tax for a service that was non existant. I have just bought snow chains so I am prepared for next years snow, maybe the council could buy some snow ploughs in the January sales!!
    Please learn from this disaster and be prepared for next time.

    Mrs Morris

  6. It seems crazy to me that the gritters have to travel all the way to Maghull to reload. we need a stockpile of rocksalt HERE in Southport. We also need more salt bins for residents to do their share of pavement clearing. The nearest one to myself in High Park was nearly a mile away.

  7. I am slightly at a loss to understand the concern about ploughing on major roads which have residential frontages for fear of "obstructing residents driveways". I originally come from a Pennine city where several inches of snow is a routine winter occurance - roads are ploughed promptly and residents accept the minor inconvenience of having to occaisionally clear a small strip in front of their drives as a price worth paying in order to get on to a snow cleared road.If a fear of blocking drives on Scarisbrick New Road was the rationale behind leaving it to resemble an arctic trackway for over a week then this beggars belief.


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