Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Volunteers wanted for Cumbria snow patrol

Cumbria plans to recruit 300 volunteer ‘snow champions’ to keep pavements and footways clear this winter.

The county council is launching the initiative – which is very much in keeping with David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ – in response to the harsh conditions experienced in three of the past four years.

A report to councillors says: “Such volunteers could be given tubs of rock salt and appropriate clothing in exchange for treating snow-affected lengths of footway.”

The cabinet agreed yesterday to launch the trial at a cost of £35,000.

The plan is to recruit 50 volunteers in each of Cumbria’s six districts to treat agreed lengths of footway. Officials believe this would give a large enough sample to judge whether the idea is a success.

It follows another experiment last winter where community groups at Nenthead, near Alston, and Troutbeck, Windermere, treated roads and cleared snow blockages.

County-wide, they expect to spend £1.4m on keeping roads and pavements clear of snow and ice this winter but the bill could be much higher if there is a prolonged cold snap.

Highways chiefs are confident they can cope, whatever the winter throws at them.

Cumbria has 30,000 tonnes of rock stockpiled while a supply contract should ensure top-ups arrive even if there is a national shortage of rock salt.

The aim is to pre-treat almost a third of the county’s roads when bad weather is forecast.

Key routes should be treated within three hours and second-priority roads within five hours. Priority-three routes follow only when prolonged bad weather is expected.

The council has reviewed these arrangements and is making changes.

Fifty two miles of bus routes have been upgraded to priority two while all roads to schools will be at least priority three.

And there is a pledge now to treat remaining roads once those in the three priority groups have been done.

Remotely-operated warning signs are being installed on the A686 at Hartside and the A592 Kirkstone Pass, at a cost of £40,000, to warn when these routes are impassable.

Council leader Eddie Martin said: “It is a radical overhaul of the winter maintenance gritting programme. Let’s hope it works.”

The council looks after winter maintenance on most of Cumbria’s roads but not motorways or trunk roads. In addition, the Carlisle Northern Development Route and 92 miles of former trunk roads are maintained by the Connect CNDR consortium.


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