‘Region road gritting is a real lottery’

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A postcode lottery of provision for winter gritting has emerged as new figures show a huge disparity across the region.

Communities in Sheffield are twice as likely to see their priority roads gritted as those in Hull or Doncaster, an investigation by The Yorkshire Post has found.

The new figures, detailing what percentage of each authority’s network is gritted on a priority basis, show some areas of Yorkshire see 70 per cent of roads cleared while in others it is less than a third. And as MP Craig Whittaker condemns “shambolic” failed attempts by Calderdale Council in December to cut back its routine gritting, campaigners have warned that winter maintenance is essential to keeping motorists safe on the roads.

“Yorkshire residents will no doubt be at loss to understand how Sheffield is able to grit 70 per cent of its roads while Hull only chooses to treat 31 per cent,” said RAC spokesman Simon Williams.

“Applying salt to roads when the temperature drops is key to keeping motorists safe and enabling people to go about their daily business as normally as possible. While there will naturally be differences in terrain which will affect local authorities’ decisions, it is vital that the most important roads are treated whenever necessary so the impact of cold weather is minimised.”

The analysis, based on Freedom of Information requests to authorities across Yorkshire, looked in depth at budgets, priority networks, use of farming contractors and grit bins. Most authorities responded with a rise in annual budgets for winter maintenance since 2010, from a 5.4 per cent increase in Leeds to a 58 per cent budget increase in Doncaster. But, the analysis showed, many communities including those in Kirklees, Wakefield and North East Lincolnshire had seen a slight fall in gritting on priority routes, with new housing developments cited as the reason.

A spokesman for Hull City Council said: “The road gritting we undertake covers all our major distributor roads and all bus routes, and as such ensures that appropriate access is maintained.

“Hull is a tightly contained urban area and experiences less severe weather patterns in comparison to other Yorkshire cities, explaining why the city requires lesser amount of grit.”

Gill Gillies, assistant director of environment for Doncaster Council said the winter gritting team worked hard to ensure the network is safe for all drivers: “We grit the road network on a priority basis; this includes all main roads as well as other strategic routes.

“Doncaster is the largest borough by area in the country with many rural roads and urban areas, therefore the percentage of priority roads against the total network will be lower compared to other authorities.”