Swaffham snow clearing volunteers could blaze a trail for the rest of Norfolk

A small army of volunteers that has signed up to clear snow from a market town's pavements could be blazing a trail for other communities to follow, Norfolk County Council believes.

About 30 Swaffham residents have committed to braving the cold winter weather when it next threatens to make footpaths impassible, and make sure their neighbours can access shops and other vital services.

The scheme was set up last winter and put into action for two days in February, and now Aylsham, Diss, Holt, Wells and Methwold are among other towns and villages planning to use local volunteers in the same way.

Norfolk County Council highway engineer Paul Groom said the initiative was not about saving money, and county council retained legal responsibility for keeping the footpaths clear.

He said: 'We can't be everywhere all the time. It's the first three or four hours of snow falling, when our guys are tied up with the vehicles and the roads and the volunteers can be out there in the town centre clearing the snow and the footways.

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'It's not replacing what we do. It's enhancing it at a very local level.'

The Swaffham volunteers were trained on Monday evening, and have signed an agreement with the town council that ensures they are covered by its insurance policy.

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Tony Smith, 65, volunteered last winter so he could help elderly neighbours, and has signed up again this winter.

He said: 'It was noticed so it must have helped somewhere along the line. People were saying to us we have never seen this before and we have to explain to them why it was happening. They thought it was a fairly good idea.

'If you go to other countries they do this kind of thing and that's probably because they get snow more often, but we have just got to be ready when it does happen. Fingers crossed it does not happen that often.'

Town clerk Richard Bishop said: 'They are prepared to put their time into doing something like this and it does give them a bit of a buzz when they are out there working together. They did say they had a bit of fun.

'It makes the world of difference being able to do something, rather than saying 'It's their responsibility'. It's like that culture has been brushed aside and you can just on with it.'

He said the town council is still appealing for more volunteers. Contact him on 01760 722922.

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