Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Environment Select – Special Winter Maintenance Meeting

Last night (Tuesday) saw a special meeting of the council’s Environment Select Committee take place to consider issues around the theme of winter maintenance, the ‘offical’ phrase for issues around gritting and bin collection amongst other issues.

As well as the usual officers from the borough in attendance, Ian Stevenson the strategic director for Environmental Services from the County Council to answer any comments or concerns we have in that direction.

The meeting saw a proportionally higher number than you would normal expect from the committee’s membership of Glossopdale Councillor’s in attendance with several Glossop Councillor’s substituting for other’s not able to attend along with one or two extra’s.

A wide range of concerns mainly were raised before I spoke, but interesting nothing about the pavements in Glossop even though a number of Glossop councillor’s spoke before I did. There were however useful and valid points that I hope the county will address around ensuring the when road’s such as the Snake Pass are shut, signs details the road are shut, are placed far enough away (ideally at the end of the M67) to ensure HGV vehicles etc don’t reach the bottom of the Snake Pass where there is not enough room to turn around essentially blocking the road further making access difficult for both local residents and gritters !

For my own contribution to the meeting I started off with concerns other the lack of road gritting around the estate, including the absence of a snow plow until quite late on in the weeks of snow. The problems that this lack of gritting caused along with the apparent poor communication with local bus companies that meant Gamesley (although not as bad as parts of Hadfield and Tintwistle) had a number of days without buses.

I flagged up concerns with school closure information with the county council’s website referring you to a BBC website for details of school closures that was Derby based and didn’t include in particular any details on schools in Glossopdale, and limited information on the High Peak.

Moving on to High Peak issues, I flagged up concerns with the speed of the response to starting gritting, the mixed messages in some of the media releases that were made, such as the early statement saying no pavement gritting would be done by the borough, which people from outlying areas of Glossopdale would have seen in the papers, yet if they went in to the centre of Glossop the pavements were been gritted.

I also flagged the need once the borough had made arrangements to start pavement gritting for the county for a clear approach on gritting been needed, to cover all areas in the council’s ownership and not passing the buck by saying the council have no responsibility on areas within the management of High Peak Community Housing.

Bins were next with like most other members in attendance an initial thanks to the frontline staff doing the work and trying to keep the service running, but a need for clearer feedback on information on how the service is running, and better updates on when there are delays how things will be caught up, I flagged this because towards the end of the period the Council were advising local residents to put green boxes out as normal but it was several days after the normal date when they were actually collected, and it would have been better to revise the schedule and advise local residents accordingly then just keep the advise boxes etc should be left out until they would be collected.

I flagged up concerns over the steps to the co-op which whilst several in attendance commented that they are owned by the co-op and as such not the council’s responsibility, it was the council’s scheme to do them up and there are a well used route through to the station, that shouldn’t have been left so long before any effort’s on gritting them were made.

I also expressed the concern that now almost a month on since the end of the snow, the steps are still full of the grit that was put down, and haven’t been cleared up making the area not look as intended which is apparently again due to the issues over ownership, but something I hope will be tidied up whilst work on resolving those issues is ongoing.

I finished with questioning that when the county council made the review, what consideration was given to how the service would be provided once the original arrangement for the borough to do pavement gritting had ended, and was October / November when the review took place really the best time to be considering changes to winter arrangements.

Many of the issues I raised were noted, however the response over what arrangements had been put in place to provide the service was ‘woolly’ at best with no clear answer been given that any arrangements had been put in place, there was however agreement that perhaps the review should have been considered at a different time of year !

The meeting continued with a whole host of other issues been raised including more on the paths in Glossop, with a general view that the paths in Glossop Town Centre are more than just a winter maintenance issue, along with issues around grit bins and people steeling grit, questions over why community payback / service people weren’t been used to clear the paths, and the general issue around whether people should be clearing the own paths / shops fronts and if the can get sued for it.
So what comes next – Tuesday’s meeting was a useful opportunity to raise the various concerns and issues we had, which I hope will be taken on board by the officers from the borough and the county despite in some cases there been a view that the technology in place for monitoring some things was more reliable than what people had actually viewed happening on the ground.

For the county there will be a review of performance around the gritting network, a review of grit bins, but they expect no additionally routes other than those already covered will be gritted.

For the borough a winter maintenance policy will be put together and will come back to the environment select committee in the summer covering such issues as what pavements will be covered and there priority, arrangements for salt and grit supplies, issues around the ‘bin’ service, grit bins along with how all of this will be communicated to the public.

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