The councillor in charge of Norfolk’s response to the bad weather was phoned at home on Tuesday night by people calling on him to resign amid anger at travel disruption caused by heavy snowfall.

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Graham Plant, the cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, told a meeting at County Hall yesterday that he had taken telephone calls saying he should quit his post over the authority’s handling of the snowfall, which caused major problems in and around the county on Tuesday evening.

There were particular issues in Norwich where ice and snow on the roads brought traffic to a virtual standstill. Journeys that should have taken minutes, took hours.

But the council defended its record, saying it did all it could to deal with the heavy snowfall and the sudden drop in temperatures at Tuesday lunchtime.

Mr Plant said: “We do not see what more could have been done to improve the situation in what were exceptional circumstances. The snowstorm, widely described as a whiteout, was far heavier than anything forecast.”

Mike Jackson, director of planning and transportation at County Hall, said that, as in previous years, there would be a review of how the authority handled the issue, although he did not see what could have been done differently.

Gritters, sent out on Tuesday, soon found themselves caught up in the gridlock as driving conditions worsened.

The last time Norwich was hit by a blizzard on the same scale was in 2004 and a council report was drawn up in the aftermath listing recommendations to stop the ensuing traffic chaos happening again.

Recommendations made by council officers to Norwich Highways Agency Joint Committee at the time included:

• Spending £100,000 a year on providing more grit bins in the city

• Improving communication between the councils, police and the media

• A bigger police presence during heavy snowfall

• Councils receiving better weather forecasts

And The Eastern Daily Press was told yesterday that many of the recommendations had been introduced.

The number of gritting bins in the city has increased from 200 in 2004 to 285 now. In the rest of the county there were 205 grit bins in 1995 and 1,231 in 2011.

Better technology also means that weather forecasts are more detailed, helping the county council to decide when to send out the gritters. Gritters this year also have trackers on them so the fleet can be kept track of.

In 2003/04 £2.5m was spent on gritting and the budget for this year is £3.8m.

The county council also said its communication with the public had improved, largely thanks to social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook. Its school closure website had more than one million views on Tuesday and yesterday.

Police said they had no set strategy to deal with the snow but deployed officers as and when problems happen.

Head of operational planning, Chris Eldridge, said: “When we are aware in advance of adverse weather conditions, we take sensible precautions such as to inspect our 4x4 vehicles to ensure we can continue to deal with any incidents that occur around the county. We are part of the Norfolk Resilience Forum and are in regular contact with our partners and the public.”

Gordon Dean who was vice-chairman of the Norwich’s highways agency committee at the time of the report said the city had coped better yesterday than in 2004, but he added it was still ill-prepared to deal with the bad weather.

“I asked the officers to do the report to make sure ambulance, fire and the police could get around,” he said.

“I’m hoping that most of it was implemented but I think Norwich could have been better prepared on Tuesday. A lot still needs to be done.”

The vice-chairman of Norwich Highways Agency and the city council’s cabinet member for transport said enough lessons had not been learnt from 2004.

Councillor Bert Bremner said: “There are lessons here we can learn and I am going to ask city and county hall to see if there are possible solutions, that are cost-effective, remembering that we don’t want to waste money at any time, but have real cuts looming over us.”

33 comments

  • I think that's a bit harsh, why blame the schools? What about all the other people who rushed home including taxi drivers! I sat in the traffic for 4 hours and was as frustrated as everyone else. The fact remains that there is no legislation to make people use snow tyres in the winter, there is no training that can be done as the conditions are so far apart. Whilst I don't think anyone should have to resign, what the council should do is stop making excuses, after all they did say that this would not happen this year!

    Report this comment

    Srm

    Friday, January 18, 2013

  • Localised grit bins have proven successful in parts of the city allowing residents to attack some hotspots but there has been a waiting list and replenishment can be difficult.This may be an idea other areas could benefit from although,going back to the point I made earlier,this requires an adequate highways budget.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Difficult to see any excuse really. Plenty of warning but did they geg out early enough? Were there enough crews? Have the cuts affected vehicle readiness and staffing levels? When the gridlock began to develop what action was taken to help get the traffic moving? Once it got bad how come there was no stay at home warning? One gridlock bad, two inexcusable? Plenty of money for Coltishall, incinerators and other pet projects. Actual service? Pah! Boring.

    Report this comment

    Richard Woods

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Fazie, why should he resign? He's County Council. The A11 & A47 are the responsibility of the Highways agency, NOT the County Council.....

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Where is Gary Gritters when you need him?

    Report this comment

    Chris Appleby

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • All people want to do is moan. It snowed, it got cold, it iced over, so what? No Dunkirk spirit in evidence here.

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I run a taxi company and i think these people blaming the council are idiots ! In my view I blame headteachers for opening schools on Tuesday, road conditions were bad enough Tuesday morning let alone the afternoon. If the schools hadn't been open there would of been less traffic and lesser chance of gridlock in Norwich and other parts of the county. There was no consideration to children with special needs such as behavioral problems, diabetes and other medical problems which my drivers and passenger assistants had to cope with for hours stuck in traffic. Surely safety comes before education on days like these ? When the snow was coming down as hard and fast as it was there was nothing the gritters could have done about it, I was out driving Monday night and gritters were out constantly so I praise their efforts. Furthermore the situation on Tuesday evening wasn't helped by people blocking junctions and roundabouts in their selfish attempt to get home with no consideration on how the emergency services and gritters would get through who are trying to help the situation. At least there were some people out there showing spirit handing out tea and pushing cars. Bottom line, we are never and will never be good at coping in the snow, snow chains and winter tyres are not compulsory, people here do not drive according to the conditions and do not heed the warnings to stay at home or leave early when the conditions are forecast.

    Report this comment

    eaboy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • a lot of the problems were caused by the good old fashioned british inability to drive in the snow. panicking idiots caused much of it. Go to Germany or Canada, they know how to drive in those conditions!

    Report this comment

    simon taylor

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Hoohaa, what do you think councillors are for? gritting gritting gritting, thats all there is to be done, is it? How about adding the purchase of extra snow clearing equipment to the agenda? and strategically position this equipment when snow is forecast? How many tons of salt can our river causes take each winter?. How about advising people to get snow chains for cars and trax for their shoes? Further what of pedestrians? many of us have landed on our backsides during the last 72 hrs. due to the lack of any clearance whatsoever, compacted ice, and many feet polishing the surface some more have resulted in icerinks? Should everyone be encouraged or made to clear the snow in front of their houses and or shops?

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I run a taxi company and i think these people blaming the council are idiots ! In my view I blame headteachers for opening schools on Tuesday, road conditions were bad enough Tuesday morning let alone the afternoon. If the schools hadn't been open there would of been less traffic and lesser chance of gridlock in Norwich and other parts of the county. There was no consideration to children with special needs such as behavioral problems, diabetes and other medical problems which my drivers and passenger assistants had to cope with for hours stuck in traffic. Surely safety comes before education on days like these ? When the snow was coming down as hard and fast as it was there was nothing the gritters could have done about it, I was out driving Monday night and gritters were out constantly so I praise their efforts. Furthermore the situation on Tuesday evening wasn't helped by people blocking junctions and roundabouts in their selfish attempt to get home with no consideration on how the emergency services and gritters would get through who are trying to help the situation. At least there were some people out there showing spirit handing out tea and pushing cars. Bottom line, we are never and will never be good at coping in the snow, snow chains and winter tyres are not compulsory, people here do not drive according to the conditions and do not heed the warnings to stay at home or leave early when the conditions are forecast.

    Report this comment

    eaboy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Its going to snow again tomorrow. I suggest you don't travel unless its essential, give yourself plenty of time and take care.

    Report this comment

    norfolkngood

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Absolutely, he should be asked to resign for being part of a cabinet that have hived off monies for repairs and response such as this for other projects such as Coltishall and the NDR. This man is more suited to salt on chips than salt on roads.

    Report this comment

    Marigold

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Having been in the city when the snow started, the gridlock happened AFTER the snow came down so furiously, as employers let their staff leave work. Prior to that the roads seemed gritted and i didn't slip around, in the gridlock it was as if the snow was compacted. How can the council deal with a freak (and it was freaky as I'd checked the forecast and this downfall was not on it's way when I left) event when they had already gritted. I think help would have been useful in the form of man-power pushing the cars along (although employers would have been wise to wait 5 mins until the gritters had been out again, but how are they to know). All this complaining is so petty. I also think people blaming the council are misplaced. And personal attacks seem ridiculously childish, be responsible and make your complaints the official route instead of cowardly posts in a public arena that actually seem quite personal!

    Report this comment

    m347marcsmith

    Friday, January 18, 2013

  • No mention in the plan to reopen the roads they have closed, which would give the traffic more option when a problem occures. That would mean applying common sense and obviously a councill are not capable of doing that.

    Report this comment

    parkeg1

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I run a taxi company and i think these people blaming the council are idiots ! In my view I blame headteachers for opening schools on Tuesday, road conditions were bad enough Tuesday morning let alone the afternoon. If the schools hadn't been open there would of been less traffic and lesser chance of gridlock in Norwich and other parts of the county. There was no consideration to children with special needs such as behavioral problems, diabetes and other medical problems which my drivers and passenger assistants had to cope with for hours stuck in traffic. Surely safety comes before education on days like these ? When the snow was coming down as hard and fast as it was there was nothing the gritters could have done about it, I was out driving Monday night and gritters were out constantly so I praise their efforts. Furthermore the situation on Tuesday evening wasn't helped by people blocking junctions and roundabouts in their selfish attempt to get home with no consideration on how the emergency services and gritters would get through who are trying to help the situation. At least there were some people out there showing spirit handing out tea and pushing cars. Bottom line, we are never and will never be good at coping in the snow, snow chains and winter tyres are not compulsory, people here do not drive according to the conditions and do not heed the warnings to stay at home or leave early when the conditions are forecast.

    Report this comment

    eaboy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • That's all they ever say 'Lessons will be learnt' but they never are! it happens every year on the first day of snowfall, not just 2004!

    Report this comment

    City Boy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Cannot believe people think it is acceptable to call a councillor at home to air their views (assuming Joe Bloggs public and not fellow councillors) - especially over something that would've caused problems regardless of the best gritting or cold weather plans being in action.

    Report this comment

    Hoohaa

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Have accidents to life and limb increased and will council be called on to recompense for injuries etc

    Report this comment

    No to tory boy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Many people need to take a reality pill.... For gods sake it is just snow...30 Years ago 6 - 8 inches was common for a week or 2 at a time... And life went on... Just stop moaning and blaming anyone ... Blame the act of god ... More important some people in the country have 6 inches of flood water in their homes, and some have lost their homes to landslides now they have a real problem ... Most are a load of softies deal with the snow like other countries .. Get snow chains for your car instead of driving unsuitable road conditions for your tyres.. Every time their is snow out come the moaners that cannot cope... Stay in doors if you get so uptight ... People walked 3 miles to work in 12 inches of snow years ago ... Life is so easy today ... With so little snow every years ... Let's have 3 weeks of snow like when I was young .. And we still had postmen working... Just deal with snow the best you can and stop blaming anyone... Gritting has little effect on 6 inches of snow anyway...

    Report this comment

    Lionel

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Surely the best answer to this problem would be to install part time traffic signals at the roundabouts on the inner ring road. It seems that every time we get this problem it is because motorists block the roundabouts.

    Report this comment

    Gojema

    Friday, January 18, 2013

  • Fazie, why should he resign? He's County Council. The A11 & A47 are the responsibility of the Highways agency, NOT the County Council.....

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • The last time Norwich was hit by a blizzard on the same scale was in 2004? What blizzard? Don't use such a gross exageration to justify this lame response. Lack of resourcing is the key. Some NCC bod was bragging on Look East last night that gritters had been out 4-5 times on the roads since the weekend. What tosh. If only there was some way the RAF Coltishall site can be used to keep the roads clear. Get your thinking caps on!

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Lame excuses ! For the pedestrain areas to be salted and gritted is not rocket science,and why don,t shopkeepers and householders clean away snow from their frontages,and before all cry Health& Safety Regulations I despute this has anything to do with it and is a miss conception by all concerned

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I travelled all the way from Northumberland on Wednesday, All roads had been treated until I reached Norfolk. The A47 had only one lane open one and even that lane was had ice on it. Norwich ring road had not been treated. I agree he should resign. No planning

    Report this comment

    Fazie

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • @Hoohaa - I think it depends on the content of the calls. As long as they are not abusive then why shouldnt a publicly appointed official not be answerable to the public in an emergent suitation? I stress that anything abusive in unacceptable.

    Report this comment

    Donna Edwards

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • How about a copper placed at all major roundabouts to stop idiots "parking" on them, Then you have the practice of jumping red lights. These we a major factor on Tuesday.

    Report this comment

    FIGGIS

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • On second thoughts, I just realised that it Graham Plant who is responsible, please resign anyway, your not qualified to do this job.

    Report this comment

    Crazy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • The paths are absolutely terrible,it is so frightening,I have boots and spikes on the bottom of them but it is still awful to walk on.

    Report this comment

    foxey

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I went down the city this dinner time , by bus . Knowing that Theatre Street is on a hill , I caught my bus back from Castle Meadow instead .... the north side was just ice underfoot , nothing had been done to the pavement . This is the main bus interchange for Norwich - absolute disgrace .

    Report this comment

    dragonfly

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Im normally the first to moan about the council but in this case, I support them. An awful lot of snow came down in a very short space of time, no amount of grit would have made a difference. This criticism is disrespectful to those who have spent the best part of the week trying to keep Norfolk moving, they probably havent seen their families in several days. Other parts of the country have these problems too, not just Norfolk.

    Report this comment

    Crazy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • I run a taxi company and i think these people blaming the council are idiots ! In my view I blame headteachers for opening schools on Tuesday, road conditions were bad enough Tuesday morning let alone the afternoon. If the schools hadn't been open there would of been less traffic and lesser chance of gridlock in Norwich and other parts of the county. There was no consideration to children with special needs such as behavioral problems, diabetes and other medical problems which my drivers and passenger assistants had to cope with for hours stuck in traffic. Surely safety comes before education on days like these ? When the snow was coming down as hard and fast as it was there was nothing the gritters could have done about it, I was out driving Monday night and gritters were out constantly so I praise their efforts. Furthermore the situation on Tuesday evening wasn't helped by people blocking junctions and roundabouts in their selfish attempt to get home with no consideration on how the emergency services and gritters would get through who are trying to help the situation. At least there were some people out there showing spirit handing out tea and pushing cars. Bottom line, we are never and will never be good at coping in the snow, snow chains and winter tyres are not compulsory, people here do not drive according to the conditions and do not heed the warnings to stay at home or leave early when the conditions are forecast.

    Report this comment

    eaboy

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

  • Lionel, good comment. Headline is County Councillor called to resign. County are not responsible for city pavements. That would be the City council. No call for resignation there though. A47 & A11 are Highways Agency NOT County Council... Grit Bins in the City? Again, down to City not County Council.. If you can't drive in the snow then stay at home! If the pavements are slippery then don't go out. Take responsibility for your own safety and don't blame everyone else.

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Friday, January 18, 2013

  • You see the use of the word 'admits' in headlines a lot nowadays and often the word is completely misused. Admits usually conjures up and image of something being said with a degree of reluctance. Like there is something to hide. In this instance, from reading the story, there is no way of telling whether he has proactively told the meeting about the phone calls he has received, or whether he did indeed reveal it in response to a questions. Either way admitting is the wrong word in this context.

    Report this comment

    DT

    Friday, January 18, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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