CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Highways chief delivers his verdict on the salt crisis that engulfed county
By John Elworthy THE salt crisis that engulfed Cambridgeshire during the recent cold spell is to lead to a review into how the county copes in the future. But councillors were warned today by the director of highways that any expectation of the council g
By John Elworthy
THE salt crisis that engulfed Cambridgeshire during the recent cold spell is to lead to a review into how the county copes in the future.
But councillors were warned today by the director of highways that any expectation of the council gritting footpaths and cycle ways would have serious financial implications.
Mark Kemp, director of highways and access, delivered his verdict in a report to be considered by next week's environment and community services scrutiny committee.
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He said that from early December through Christmas and into the New Year the county experienced a spell of significantly cold but dry weather that caused salt stocks to run low.
"At the end of this spell, having undertaken 34 primary runs, fresh stocks were ordered to replenish supplies to provide sufficient salt for the maximum number of runs normally expected for the remainder of the season," he said.
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"However Salt Union, the county's salt provider, was experiencing a significant increase in demand and was unable to replenish supplies as quickly as would normally be expected."
Mr Kempt said more cold weather in February placed a strain on salt stocks but despite extra supplies being delivered from Devon County Council, "it did not prove possible to replace as fast as salt was being used."
The council tried using table salt mixed with sand but this proved impossible to use through normal gritting methods.
Mr Kemp said that with supplies running out emergency meetings with council leaders agreed to reduce the extent of the primary gritting network, reduce the spread rate of salt and to suspend second gritting activities to preserve salt stocks.
He explained that county salt stocks are held in Wisbech, Witchford and Huntingdon and can normally hold up to 12,000 tonnes.
However at Whittlesford, where the Highways Agency holds their stock, they were unable to continue to help out the county council given their own limited supply.
Mr Kemp said there would now be a review of gritting practices throughout the county and the council had asked the Government to co-ordinate a nationwide review about rationing of salt when supplies cannot keep pace with demand.