Dereham’s gritting defended by county engineer

A county highway officer was asked to explain why Dereham was left with ungritted roads and icy pavements during last month's cold snap.

Rod Kelly, a highway engineer from Norfolk County Council, was quizzed by town councillors at a meeting on Tuesday night.

Among the questions put to Mr Kelly were:

?Why were pathways left untreated?

?What is the county council's expectation from the public in helping to clear pavements and roads?

?Could gritting priorities be more flexible to clear localised problems when they arise?

For example, the housing estates at Scarning, Humbletoft and Moorgate Road which became inaccessible to Konectbus services.

Most Read

Mr Kelly insisted the county's gritting teams had done a good job within budget and resource constraints, given the prolonged period of cold weather in December.

He said: 'We have got a hierarchy of routes, and the county council aims to keep Priority One and Priority Two routes moving to ensure all towns and villages have a safe route in and out.

'Only when the treatment of those routes is considered adequate can Priority Three routes be gritted, which is a locally-taken decision. That is when places like the Market Place, or areas with high footfall, can be treated.

'Where we had a problem before Christmas was we had day after day of significantly lower temperatures than normal which required constant actions on Priority One and Priority Two routes to keep people moving, so the Priority Three routes did not get the treatment they were expecting.

'That is why it took so long to get to the bus routes which were causing so much difficulty, not just in Dereham, but throughout Norfolk.

'To treat Priority Three routes more often would require more funding, but I think we have provided a high level of coverage within the constraints of resources and finances we are facing.'

Mr Kelly said there were still misconceptions about what the public could do to help themselves, but reassured councillors people would not be held liable for injuries if they cleared paths using grit from a council-provided bin.

He said: 'The expectation on the public from the county council is to ask: 'Can you help us?' But we do not expect people to clear the highways, because that's dangerous. I would not expect anyone to be walking in the middle of the carriageway.'

Mr Kelly agreed to return to Dereham Town Council in June to discuss whether a pilot scheme in Suffolk to train and equip volunteers as auxiliary road-clearing crews could be duplicated in Norfolk.