Last Tuesday evening I was worrying as my partner had not made it home from South East London. She finally arrived about 10.00pm after an eight-hour drive hitting speeds of five miles per hour on the M25 and passing stationary lorries stranded in the middle lane. Friends told me similar nightmare tales from train journeys down to Hastings that night. There were no Hastings trains at all on December 1st or 2nd.
Hastings and St Leonards can look great in the snow. There are numerous pretty pictures of snow-clad beaches, cliffs and woods. But severe weather can be a very trying and nerve-racking experience for many people.
But what about Hastings Borough Council? We had to abandon refuse collections as it would be a hazard for the crews and because a 30 tonne waste freighter going down a heavily iced steep cul-de-sac would be a potential danger to every other vehicle parked there.
Instead the street sweepers, waste crews and parks and gardens teams were mobilised to clear and salt pavements in the main shopping areas like the town centre, Central St Leonards, Ore Village and Silverhill. I have received several comments from residents and traders saying how well this has been done and that it has made getting around easier than last year.
In the light of last Winter’s experience the council agreed to purchase its own stocks of salt precisely for these pavements and also for those individual roads that are the only entrance points to residential or industrial estates. Those plans were put into operation last week.
Of course many people were still stranded in their own homes, unable or too frightened to venture out on untreated roads and pavements.
The County Council as the highway authority has the duty of keeping roads clear and it determines which roads are salted and snow-ploughed. After discussion of last year’s experience it has included the roads leading to the bus garage on its routes. You can check their gritting routes via: http://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/roads/maintenance/saltingandgritting/find/default.aspx
The County Council told me on Friday 3rd December: “All of our gritters and snow ploughs were out yesterday evening before we rested the drivers over night, having worked continuously for almost 24 hours. They were out again early this morning and have just gone out again salting and ploughing all primary and secondary routes.”
By that Friday they had used 3,200 tonnes of salt around the county. Unfortunately heavy snow kept falling on top of the salt that had been put down.
The County Council did point out to me: “We continue to receive calls from members of the public asking why their roads have not been gritted or salted; when in reality they have been. When we clear snow we have to ensure the snow plough blade does not come into contact with the road surface or we risk snagging cats-eyes and man-hole covers. Consequently snow ploughing does leave a thin layer of snow behind which is salted and then relies on vehicle actions to churn and melt the snow.”
As a thaw hopefully sets in we do need to look whether Hastings Borough Council can still do things better within the resources available. Also we need to continue discussing with the County Council whether the gritting routes they cover are adequate and the most appropriate to help as many people as possible. And we do need to urge residents to do their bit to clear the paths outside their own front door and perhaps outside any more vulnerable neighbour.
But can I thank everyone who did their bit as council staff, our contractors or as ordinary residents to try assist the people of the town during those difficult days.