Back in July West Sussex County Council released a press release entitled ‘safety and value for money are the watchwords in new highway maintenance plan’.
Amongst other things it laid out how this plan would see the gritting network drastically reduced. A report at the time described the changes as a ‘revised risk based policy aligned with neighbouring authorities’.
The percentage of the network treated during cold weather has been reduced from 41 to 31 per cent.
The county council’s winter service policy for 2019/20 was duly published with a map on page 30 of 31, showing the winter service network and the roads which will be gritted. However it does not appear to have any details on what roads have stopped being treated and how the decisions were arrived at.
The level of shock from readers since our newspapers published exact details of the cuts and roads which will no longer be gritted on our websites shows a failure of consultation and publicity, even before you get to decision making.
The county council is under enormous financial pressure and is looking to fill a budget gap of around £75million over the next four years and it will not be able to do so without taking some difficult decisions.
But for £150,000 a year residents will find these gritting cuts galling given the money wasted in a number of areas that we have featured recently.
We believe WSCC should think again and reverse the cuts. The safety of residents should always come first.
We are encouraging readers to send in letters for publication and contact your county councillor if you oppose the changes.
At least two petitions have already been set up. One for the Horsham district already has more than 1,000 signatures, while another for the Chichester area has almost 100.
A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We have taken a risk-based approach to identifying the roads most in need of being treated, which prioritises roads that have highest use and provides access to key facilities across the network.
“To make best use of our finite resources, it is important to focus our efforts on gritting roads where there is high demand, so we have reviewed our West Sussex Winter Service Policy in line with the national code of practice, Well Managed Highway Infrastructure.
“This means the new service level during icy conditions reduces from 41 per cent of the road network to 31 per cent, which equates to 1,283km of the network and targets high speed/high volume roads. The reduction in the amount of network that we treat does produce savings for the authority as we have reduced the number of gritters and drivers we need. The total savings this year are around £150,000 – however, if we get a prolonged spell of frost and snow then costs will increase.
“The county council will continue to promote a ‘safety first’ message and remind road users that those who drive on public highways should do so in a manner and at a speed that is safe, having regard to such matters as the nature of the road, the weather conditions and the traffic conditions.”
Details for individual areas can be found here: