20,000 tonnes of salt ready to keep Sunderland's roads clear during winter

Council chiefs have reassured councillors that they have stockpiled enough salt for the winter period – despite supply chain delays elsewhere in the country.

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 12:17 pm

Thousands of tonnes of salt have been ordered to support Sunderland City Council’s Winter Maintenance Plan, which keeps the roads safe and moving during wintry weather.

Although the local authority now has enough salt to deal with another severe ‘Beast from the East’ event, it faced challenges in sourcing it from suppliers earlier this year.

“One of the biggest challenges over the last two or three months has been the provision of salt,” said Graham Scanlon, Assistant Director of Housing Services on the council.

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A gritter heading past Penshaw Hill.

“In the past it hasn’t been a problem and HGV drivers were available to get salt fairly easily through an order.

“What we were finding from our provider was that they had salt but they had no-one to drive the salt to us.

“HGV drivers in their system were leaving and it was a bit of a worry in the year, however we were ahead of the curve really and placed our order quite early.

“So we got the first tranche of deliveries, bearing in mind the other local authorities have only really just got theirs through.”

The council officer was speaking at Tuesday’s (December 7) Economic Prosperity Scrutiny Committee, which was held within the new council chamber at City Hall.

Councillors heard that Sunderland had salt provision across three city sites, including one in Houghton and two in Pallion.

Mr Scanlon added: “At the moment we have got 19,000 tonnes with another 1,000 tonnes on its way so we’re really pleased that we have got that on the ground.

“In the last couple of weeks obviously we have been using that at a steady rate […] and we are using that salt as required.”

Councillor Tony Taylor asked whether the salt used on Sunderland’s road network would be mixed with other materials, such as small pieces of gravel.

This followed concerns about other local authorities using this practice in the past to make the salt “last longer” and associated impacts on roads and property.

Council officers confirmed that no “mix” was being used on Wearside and that the salt was “brand new pure salt for gritting.”

Councillor Dianne Snowdon, who has been working as a Covid vaccinator at Sunderland’s Nightingale Hospital, also thanked council staff for their recent work.

“Many people know I’m working at the Nightingale and on Sunday if our grit team hadn’t been out and done the roads and the car parks, we wouldn’t have been vaccinating,” she said.

“In Middlesbrough they had to close their centre because the roads and the car parks weren’t safe, so thank you.”

During an average winter, Sunderland City Council could use up to 10,000 tonnes of salt while a severe weather event such as the Beast from the East could see up to 15,000 tonnes used.

Gritting routes are dealt with on a priority basis, with roads and routes which get very high levels of traffic and primary bus routes being dealt with first.

The council has around 15 gritters in service with spare vehicles available as “back-up in the system.”

Due to the loss of experienced drivers, the council is also offering additional training to staff in advance of the winter period.

A statement on Sunderland City Council’s website reads: “Keeping all roads, footpaths and pedestrian areas clear of snow and ice would be an impossible task so we treat them on a strict priority basis.

“The pre-determined gritting routes in Sunderland cover the main roads and bus routes across the city, as well as ensuring access for emergency vehicles.”

The statement goes on to say: “Residential roads and paths are unlikely to be treated, since all effort will be concentrated on the priority one and two routes.

“Whenever possible we will treat footpaths around shopping centres, bus stops, footbridges or areas where there is a large number of older people, again in order of priority.”

For more information, visit: www.sunderland.gov.uk/winter-maintenance

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