Agenda item

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S REPORT: ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE

To note the attached update report from Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment & Infrastructure (which includes Quarter 2 performance data at the end).

 

This report is to be taken as read. If members of the Committee have any questions, these should be emailed to Sophie Benfield in Democratic Services who will liaise with officers to provide a written response.

 

Minutes:

6.1       The Chair invited Kath Haworth, Assistant Director of Highways and Infrastructure, to give a verbal update on the snow clearing and gritting programme following December’s weather incident. Members noted this was an interim update pending a full report in May. The following points were noted:

·         December saw the coldest sub-zero period since 2010, it had 25 nights at or below 3 degrees, 10 continuous 24-hour period where the temperature did not recover above zero at any time. This meant any snow that fell during that 10 days did not experience any natural recovery as the temperatures didn’t increase at all. Road surface temperatures were reading minus 10 and below.

·         Through the 10-day period of snow and ice, the gritting teams used 5800 tonnes of salt, which amounted to 50% of the year’s entire stock. They did 121 runs from the 4 winter operating depots, which was around 2500 driver hours alone, and did not take into account any of the supporting team etc. who make these operations possible.

·         The teams also filled up around 6000 grit bins and provided 2000 bags of salt to communities.

·         The Council’s Adverse Weather Plan available on the website detailed roads that were prioritised for gritting during snow and ice, and the selection of these was based on national guidance and practice.

·         There was a secondary network which teams would try to reach where resource permitted during more prolonged conditions. This was not currently published as it was not always possible.

·         GCC did not currently treat footways or cycleways as a separate gritting operation, although officers recognised it would be something for future consideration, particularly to support messages around active travel. Operationally it was a very different task and something other local authorities were grappling with on how it could be delivered.

·         At the moment, the rock salt used on roads needed traffic to roll over in order for a solution to be produced and melt the ice on the road. This would obviously need to be different if used on cycle and footways.

·         The routes that were prioritised in the Plan were reviewed every year and officers welcomed comments on this.

 

6.2       The Committee paid their thanks to the teams for their hard work during the extended bad weather. Members appreciated the level of undertaking required to keep the network safe during adverse weather such as this.

6.3       It was questioned whether this prolonged adverse weather had had a subsequent impact on the deterioration of the road surface. Members noted that incidents of potholes were generally higher this time of year anyway due to the temperatures, level of rainfall etc. but the team were seeing the benefit of the network being in an overall better condition due to recent investment levels.

6.4       Members noted that there was certainly a spike in residents contacting highways during this period. There were dedicated ‘snow desks’ in all the winter depots to ensure there was a dedicated direct line during prolonged response periods to ensure residents such as farmers or community snow plough operators could reach officers. There was also a whole communication strategy throughout winter season. Officers welcomed the suggestion of having a conversation around managing community expectations, and particularly how members could help relay those messages.

6.5       Noting reference made to a secondary network for gritting, it was advised that this had not been published to date to avoid community reliance. Officers would have to consider a caveat which managed expectations if it were to be in the future. There was also a suggestion that officer may need to consider additional action that could be taken during similar, major events, i.e., where there was snow and ice on the ground for a number of days, which would look at supporting residents using smaller roads and pavements over a prolonged adverse weather period.

6.6       It was agreed that officers needed to explore how unparished areas (Cheltenham and Gloucester) could go about volunteer coordination in their areas for things such as gritting provision. It was accepted that at the moment there was a difference in the level of community involvement between parished and unparished areas in the county as parish councils were the one to coordinate activity and requesting provisions etc.

Supporting documents: