Cheshire East gritting fleet ready for winter

More than 200 roads including many rural lanes in and around Nantwich will be taken off Cheshire East Council’s gritting routes after councillors approved the plan, writes Stephen Topping.

The controversial policy, which will come into effect from October this year, has been met with fierce criticism with many saying the council is putting lives in danger.

Cheshire East Council’s cabinet signed off the authority’s new well-managed highway infrastructure yesterday (February 4)

We revealed last week the full extent of the plans, and the roads which face the axe from winter gritting routes.

Key rural roads which will no longer be gritted include Coole Lane from the A530 to the A525, Sound Lane and Swanley Lane, Bridgemere Road from the A529 onto to Hunsterson Lane and Checkley Lane, Wrinehill Road and Cobbs Lane.

Also Long Lane from Burland to Haughton, as well as all of Wettenhall Road from Reaseheath up to Winsford Road, will not be treated.

In total, 247 roads that will be taken off the council’s gritting route having failed to score enough points to qualify for gritting under new guidelines set by Government.

But cabinet members were urged to reconsider the scheme over concerns the public were not aware of the new policy’s implications.

Stacey Rowley, representing Bridgemere Primary School and Calveley Primary Academy, spoke out about roads close to those south Cheshire schools being taken off the route.

Roads across Cheshire East were given a risk assessment score, with roads scoring less than 100 axed from the council’s gritting route – totalling 230km.

However, some roads scoring more than 100 have been added to the route that had previously been untreated by highways officers in cold weather – totalling 103km.

Cllr Rob Vernon, Labour member for Broken Cross and Upton, told cabinet that more than 500 residents had signed a petition calling for a rethink on taking Whirley Road out of the gritting route in just three days.

CEC began work on its well-managed highway infrastructure back in 2018, with public consultation on the wider scheme taking place that summer.

Cllr Rachel Bailey, Conservative member for Audlem and CEC’s leader at the time the work began, added: “It saddens me to hear parish councillors, residents and heads of school say, ‘why have we not been told here?’

“So I have to say, why is there a rush? Why can’t we pause?”

But independent Cllr Craig Browne, CEC’s deputy leader, confirmed the policy had been considered by a council scrutiny committee on four occasions before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

And he insisted the council is following the standards being set by the Department for Transport (DfT), which provides funding to the authority based on whether it is following the code.

Cllr Browne said: “Leadership sometimes involves making difficult decisions and I don’t think there’s any doubt that that is what the proposal is.”

Cabinet members unanimously approved the policy, but Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, raised concerns about the consultation that took place.

He added: “I think it has improved recently, but clearly we need to learn some more lessons from what happened in 2018, and I think we could review that consultation and learn lessons from it.”

Wybunbury Cllr and Conservative group leader Janet Clowes blasted the decision after the meeting.

She said: “The decision was taken despite concerns raised by myself, local primary school representatives and many ward councillors of all parties.

“This is shocking news especially in the light of just 96 consultation responses on a consultation carried out in the summer holidays in 2018.

“The last administration (of which I was a part), do not accept this as representative yet the halted process has been allowed to progress since last Autumn with minimum additional consultation work and with no access to the assessment matrix that has deemed it appropriate to remove these routes from the gritting programme.

“Cabinet Members  promised to make the full details available on the website ‘shortly’ but after the decision has been made and thus excluding elected members and the public from offering the benefit of local knowledge and local impacts.”

The well-managed highway infrastructure policy will also see CEC investigate potholes at a shallower depth than before – at 40mm rather than 50mm.

Other road, footpath and cycleway defects will also be inspected earlier than before.

2 Comments

  1. David Harrison says:

    Rural communities see limited services cut even more. Poor street lighting, atrocious, deteriorating road surfaces, limited or no bus services…the list goes on. Does this mean Cheshire East will reduce our council tax? Not a chance. Coole Lane, which is on the hit list, is a prime example. This has seen a huge increase in traffic over the past two years as house building continues at a pace in Audlem, more holidaymakers with their caravans are encouraged to visit the area and farm vehicles grow bigger and faster by the year. The lane is being systematically destroyed and is dangerous at the best of times, so what will happen when the council fail to grit the surface in the winter?

  2. John Doherty says:

    What liability does Cheshire East have in the case of accidents/fatalities

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