Winter Preparations

12 November 2010, 06:00

Heart's been speaking to the people who look after the roads in Suffolk at the opening of a new salt barn - which holds six thousand tonnes of salt.

It's after we saw a particularly severe winter both last year and the year before, which caused a shortage of salt for roads across the country.

Norfolk was not affected by the shortage, but the winter still caused problems on the county's roads. It has taken nearly a year to repair damage caused on the roads from last year's winter.

However, Suffolk was affected by the national shortage, so provisions have been made this year to try and help the situation if we have another severe winter.

They've got extra salt across the county - including at the new £900,000 salt barn which is located at Goddard Road in Ipswich and aims to replace the facility at the Great Blakenham depot. The barn can store more salt, and is home to a local fleet of salt spreaders.

The new salt barn is part of overall preparations for bad winter weather. The six thousand tonnes of salt it holds can be distributed across the county's roads and main trunk roads operated by the Highways Agency in East Anglia direct from the depot.

Despite feeling confident we will have more salt for the winter this year, Graham Lewen, the General Manager of Suffolk Highways told Heart "Even now, we haven't got sufficient salt to last us through the winter if we get the same problems that we had last year, and if we have a national shortage - then we are quite possibly going to get into the same situation.

He says they'll have around 20 thousand tonnes for the start of the winter and added, "If we have a normal winter - that will cover us without a problem, but if we have a winter like last year - we'll be 8 thousand tonnes short. We have contracts in place. We'd expect to get the salt, but if companies are running out as happened last year  -and there was a national and European shortage last year - then we will go into the mix with all the other authorities around the country."

He also told us they had learnt from some of the problems experienced before and are prepared for anything, but they can't predict the weather, "If we do get the same sort of weather patterns we had last year, or even the year before when we didn't get the snow but we had continuous frost then we could conceivably run into problems and we might well again have to consider reducing the amount of salt we use."

Last year the council also overspent the budget on gritting roads, but Graham Lewen added, even if we have a harsh winter, money shouldn't become a main issue, "We can't afford not to deliver the winter service. Money cannot be seen as a priority issue, when we are really talking about having to treat roads for the safety of the public. Whilst we would hope that we would be able to stay within budget, if we have to spend more, we have to spend more."

To see photos of the new salt barn just see the gallery below.