This page provides frequently asked questions and answers about gritting of our roads and pavements.
We hope you find the answer to your question here, but if you need more help please call Highways Customer Care on 01443 866511 or email Highways Customer Care.
What roads will be gritted?
We've developed a network of highway treatment routes that will be gritted dependant on the circumstances of the weather forecasts and conditions. There are three different treatments, and we rely on Met Office sources to inform our decisions about which treatments we carry out and when.
The typical routes which will be treated within the borough are as follows:
- Standard treatment routes – This is the treatment of classified roads, principal roads, most bus routes and routes to emergency service premises, key medical facilities and key public facilities.
A standard treatment will be carried out when the weather forecast predicts ice may form or snow may fall on the road surface across the whole borough.
Map of winter road treatment priorities (PDF 168kb)
- High roads treatment routes – This is the treatment of the borough's high altitude roads or roads which have sections where frost or ice regularly form.
A treatment of the high roads will be carried out when the weather forecast predicts ice may form, or snow may fall on the road surface at these specific locations.
- Priority treatment routes – This is the treatment of the borough's priority roads to ensure the major roads network and key public services are maintained. A priority treatment will be carried out in certain severe weather conditions such prolonged heavy snowfall where the rate at which the snow can accumulate on the road is greater than the rate the snow can be cleared using ploughs and salt treatment.
The priority routes will be the first routes to be treated in severe weather conditions. The standard highway treatment routes will only be treated after the priority routes have been cleared and made safe.
It is rare we have to carry out a treatment of the priority routes only. The standard treatment routes will be treated in the majority of normal winter conditions, including snow. There is a strict criteria for priority treatment routes which mean it's not possible for us to add additional roads to the priority routes unless they meet the criteria.
The Highways Agency is responsible for maintaining the motorway network and trunk roads around our borough i.e. A470, A465 and the M4. Any issues relating to motorway gritting and maintenance should be reported to the Highways Agency in the first instance.
Can I add a road to the treatment routes if it's not already included?
The gritting treatment routes are already planned and designed around specific criteria to meet the needs of the borough overall. Unless roads meet the criteria it will not be possible for us to add them to our existing gritting routes.
Why do priority treatment routes sometimes only get gritted? What about other roads or bus routes?
It is rare the priority routes will be the only routes we'll treat. The following circumstances explain the occasions when only priority routes will be treated:
- Certain severe weather conditions - such as prolonged heavy snowfall when the rate of snowfall on the highway is greater than the rate the snow that can be cleared using ploughs and salt treatment. In these conditions the critical road network and other specific requirements must be prioritised to ensure the priority routes and other key public services can be maintained.
- The forecast indicates the need for increased salt use - where the weather forecast indicates we will need to use more salt than we have available in our current salt stocks, we must prioritise the critical routes. This case will apply until more salt stocks have been delivered, and we will review the situation and ensure the critical road network is made safe before any other roads are treated. Salt stocks have been significantly increased to reduce the likelihood of this occurring.
- National control mechanisms - where salt cell or another national control mechanism imposes a salt usage restriction. This forces us into a situation where we can only treat the critical road network to ensure the key routes and other key public services are maintained.
How does the council decide when to grit the roads?
We monitor weather conditions 24 hours a day throughout the highways winter service season. Decisions on the level of treatment is determined from the information we get from weather stations within the borough and detailed forecasts from the Met Office. We may also visually inspect the roads to verify the information obtained from the weather stations and Met Office.
When we know for definite from the weather forecasts the treatment routes will need to be gritted, we aim for treatments to take place before the onset of the frost or snow. Gritting at these times ensures we get the best performance from the grit. Dependant on the severity of the weather forecast we may carry out both an evening and morning grit of the roads and further grits throughout the day and night.
On occasions where the weather forecast cannot confirm for definite whether a treatment is needed we will monitor the weather data continuously. This means we will only carry out a gritting treatment when it's required. However, if this coincides with the rush hours, gritters can be severely delayed and get stuck along with the other traffic. This is why we aim to avoid rush hour gritting. Difficulties can also arise when rain is forecast to continue right up to the time of freezing conditions or when the rain is forecast to turn to snow. In these circumstances the gritters must wait until the rain has stopped or the salt will be washed away.
Why can't the council grit every road?
It's not possible for the gritters to spread salt on every road and pedestrian area. To overcome this, we've provided over 700 grit bins at key locations throughout the borough.
We provided grit bins for residents, motorists and pedestrians to spread the grit on the public highway and pedestrian areas. The grit in grit bins should not be used on private property, such as driveways.
See popular questions and answers about grit bins
How long does it take to grit our roads?
We can get our gritting fleet out onto the roads within an hour and it takes approximately three hours in total to complete a standard gritting treatment.
Can I make gritting requests above the levels of service defined by the council's policy?
We are not able to respond to requests which are above the level of service set by the policy because the new winter service has been planned so it is clear about what should be prioritised and the resources and salt stocks have been set up for this. Additional requests can ultimately affect our ability to deliver the agreed priorities and has implications on our salt stocks which have to be preserved.
How many gritters do we have?
Treatment of the highway network is carried out by a fleet of 13 gritters which cover over 485km (301miles) of the road network.
Why can't the council just grit every road the gritters travel along?
It's not possible for the gritters to spread grit on every road and pedestrian area. To overcome this, we've provided over 700 grit bins at key locations throughout the borough.
We provided grit bins for residents, motorists and pedestrians to spread the griton the public highway and pedestrian areas. The grit in bins should not be used on private property, such as driveways.
See popular questions and answers about grit bins
Why do we sometimes see gritters on the road but not spreading grit?
This could be two main reasons:
- The highway treatment routes are designed and planned so each gritting vehicle covers the treated network in the shortest distance but there will always be a certain amount of 'dead mileage' where the gritting vehicles do not spread grit on the roads. This happens typically where the gritters are either travelling to and from the depot, travelling between treated parts of the network, or travelling back over a section which has already been / will be treated.
- The new fleet of gritters have a 'low throw' spreading device which distributes the grit on the road at a lower level than traditional gritters. This ensures the majority of the grit spread is kept on the roads and minimises the amount that bounces up and hits cars. If you are travelling a safe distance behind a new gritter or past one in the opposite direction it is more difficult to see to grit being spread and you may not hear it hitting your vehicle - unlike the traditional spreaders.
How cold does it have to be before gritters are sent out?
There is no set temperature at which gritting starts. There is a national code of practice which details numerous gritting scenarios. Factors that may affect gritting include variations in weather across the borough, altitude, existing and new snow fall, the dew point, road surface temperature, current and forecast salt supplies.
What pedestrian areas will be treated and when?
Pedestrian areas will be treated in exceptional weather conditions on a priority basis and subject to available resources within the council. Pedestrian areas will not be treated for normal overnight frosty conditions.
Decisions to grit pedestrian areas will be based on the following criteria:
Priority 1 - Priority 1 areas cover the highest footfall areas on public footways in town and district centres, principal shopping areas, and outside bus interchanges and train / tram stations. Priority 1 areas will be treated subject to available resources for the following events:
- Snowfall: Snow is expected to settle and remain for a period of 24 hours or more.
- Frost/ice: Frost or ice has formed and is expected to remain for a period of 24 hours or more.
Priority 2 - Priority 2 areas cover the same type of areas as covered by Priority 1 but over a greater extent. Priority 2 areas will be treated when all Priority 1 areas have been treated. Priority 2 areas will be treated subject to available resources for the following events:
- Snowfall: Snow has settled on the ground for a period of 24 hours and is expected to remain for a further 48 hours or more.
- Frost/ice: Frost or ice has formed and remained for a period of 24 hours and is expected to remain for a period of 48 hours or more.
Priority 3 - Priority 3 areas cover the highest footfall areas on public footways outside secondary schools, further education centres (i.e. colleges), hospitals, medical centres and hospices. Priority 3 areas will be treated when all Priority 1 and 2 areas have been treated. Priority 3 areas will be treated, subject to available resources, for the following events:
- Snowfall: Snow has settled on the ground for a period of 72 hours and is expected to remain for a further period of 72 hours or more.
- Frost/ice: Frost or ice has formed and remained for a period of 72 hours and is expected to remain for a period of 72 hours or more.
Is it safe for me to clear snow and ice from pavements myself?
The Government has published guidance to confirm there's no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your home or from outside public spaces. If you've cleared the path carefully, it's unlikely you'll be sued or held legally responsible for any injuries on the path.
DirectGov - Clearing snow and ice from pavements yourself
Will the council treat pavements if it's frosty?
No. Normal overnight frosty conditions don't warrant the need for treatment of pedestrian areas.