Congleton councillor and cyclist ponders gritting cuts u-turn

  Posted: 25.10.21 at 19:56 by Belinda Ryan, Local Democracy Reporter and Alexander Greensmith

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Cheshire East has been asked to urgently review its winter gritting policy with residents claiming lives are at risk because some roads have been removed from the route.

In the proposed published changes for Congleton’s gritting for Winter 2021/22, our town has had 10,798 meters of road cut.

Despite this, 6,069 new meters have been added to the gritting policy, on top of the 13,660 retained or saved.

There are 0.74 meters of road per capita gritted in Congleton under the new policy.

The new plan sees a 19.3% shortfall for our town.

At the bottom of this article, we have listed at least 30 Congleton streets currently earmarked for removal from the gritting route.

A snowy day at Bosley Cloud in Congleton (unaffected by the cuts). © Copyright Colin Park CC 2.0

Even with the threat of climate change and global warming, icy roads aren't going to go away.

The removal of these routes are a cost-cutting measure for our borough council, but decision-makers have been questioned about the human cost of such a decision.

Highways chair Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) was challenged by residents and councillors about the new policy which comes into force this winter.

Cllr Suzie Akers Smith (Congleton West) asked: “When will the volume of complaints received trigger a review of the gritting policy?”

The Congleton Independent will have particular concern for road safety, as she is the Walking and Cycling Champion for Cheshire East.

Cllr Craig Browne is the No. 2 at Cheshire East Council, and took the heat on the grit complaints.

The lack of autumn and winter gritting in over 30 Congleton roads will make pedestrians, bikers and drivers much more unsafe in our town.

Macclesfield resident Alex Adamski told Wednesday’s meeting of the full council: “219 roads are being cut across Cheshire East, and there was a net reduction of 79 miles, which is now well below the national average for roads gritted.

“I don’t think that’s progress in the 21st century, and it’s not something we can be proud of.

"For clarity, I don’t believe any road should be cut, because lives, the elderly and the vulnerable, and access to emergency services for many are now at risk."

He said he had focussed on three towns – Crewe, Congleton and Macclesfield – and Macclesfield now has 19 per cent less gritting per capita than Congleton and 23 per cent less than Crewe.

The first grit of the season was completed on October 20.

“I would like a free vote of you all to see how many councillors actually support the policy of huge winter gritting cuts, in fact cuts at all.”

He added: “There’s much more strong opposition to come, including legal challenges.”

Cllr Margaret Simon (Wistaston, Con) asked Cllr Browne if he would bring forward a review of the ‘harsh and uncaring policy’ before the winter set in.

“There are genuine road safety concerns here in particular in rural areas so, on behalf of all concerns from residents and members, I am respectfully and formally asking if you could bring forward the review and re-think this this harsh and uncaring policy,” she said.

Cllr Browne told the meeting the new framework introduced ensures all roads across the borough are assessed fairly and against the same criteria.

Cheshire East gritting stats for 2018.

“Prior to the introduction of this framework, 41 per cent of the network was gritted.

"Following the introduction of the framework, some routes have been added, and some routes have been removed, but under severe or extreme weather conditions, other roads that aren’t covered by the regular programme will be gritted, for example, in the event of a heavy or persistent snowfall,” said Cllr Browne.

He said any costs incurred through additional gritting would have to be met by cuts elsewhere.

He added the policy is due to be reviewed in March and it’s impossible to bring that date forward because you can’t review something which hasn’t yet happened.

Wilmslow resident Stuart Redgard, told the meeting he considered the highways department ‘not fit for purpose’ and in need of a ‘complete overhaul’.

Alek Adamski has founded East Cheshire Gritting Action Group to cancel the half-century of cuts.

He said the winter gritting routes was full of errors and omissions, a fact, he said, was acknowledged by the council in July, but still not corrected.

“Only yesterday I received further evidence which demonstrates a gross error made in the winter gritting routes review," he proclaimed.

"How many more errors and omissions do I have to reveal before this whole process is shown to be an absolute disaster?”

The non-exhaustive list of Congleton roads to have their gritting cut are as follows:

Bailey Crescent, Beatty Drive, Berkshire Drive, Brunswick Street, Buxton Old Road, Chapel Street, Coronation Road, Crossledge, Daisybank Drive, Daven Road, Davidson Avenue, Dixon Road, Fern Crescent, Forge Lane, Foster Road, Harvey Road, Havannah Lane, Highcroft Avenue, Kennet Drive, Kent Drive, Leigh Road, Moody Street, Padgbury Lane, Pirie Road, Somerset Close, Swaledale Avenue, Thames Close, Under Rainow Road, Walfield Avenue and Woolston Avenue.

Fol Hollow, Wagg Street and Waggs Road were recently saved from being slashed.

A campaign group has been set up to reverse the cuts which halt streaks of fifty years of gritting, for which you can join here.

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