Around one in three local highways authorities have closed roads or bridges in the last year due to flood damage and close to 90% are planning flood mitigation measures this winter, a new survey suggests.
The findings of the Local Government Association’s (LGA's) Winter Readiness Survey revealed flooding remains a major concern at local level, with a range of techniques employed to help mitigate the risk.
The poll of 81 highways authorities across England and Wales - close to half the total of 174, not including Transport for London - found 88% were planning to take action to reduce the risk of flooding on roads:
- 56% were planning to use gully-sucking lorries
- 53% planning to use sandbags
- 36% planning additional gully and drain inspections
- 22% planning to use pumps
- 7% to take measures to reduce landslips
- 30% planning to use community flood wardens
The survey also found that councils across England and Wales have maintained stockpiles of gritting salt for the roads this winter, with an estimated 1.2 million tonnes on hand – the same as in 2015.
In October 2013 there was an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of gritting salt stockpiled, and 1.3m tonnes in 2012.
In November 2013, the Government issued councils with a new duty to cooperate on winter services. In 2014 the LGA survey found that 48% were planning to share resources ‘if necessary’ and 44% of councils were planning to share salt stocks.
The number has jumped to 64% planning to share resources with other councils and emergency services over the 2016/17 winter weather season.
Sharing policies were most often seen on salt stocks (47%), followed by gritting machinery (28%), staff (16%), gully-sucking lorries (12%), and pumps (10%).
Oddly, the survey shows a fall in the number of councils using GPS technology on gritting fleets – 75% compared to 87% in 2015. Although last year, fewer councils (67) responded to the survey, which is sent out to every local highways authority in England and Wales.
The use of social media showed another steady increase this year, rising two percentage points, with 97% of councils using Twitter accounts to keep people up-to-date with winter service.
Cllr Martin Tett, LGA transport spokesman, said that councils were ‘fully prepared to protect residents’ and minimise disruption.
He added: ‘Councils will treat as many roads as possible during the cold snap and have also filled thousands of community grit bins and recruited volunteers to help people clear pavements, paths and side streets when needed.
‘Local authorities will be constantly updating websites with information on weather, gritting routes, road conditions, school closures and bin collections, and many councils also have gritter Twitter feeds and Facebook pages detailing the latest developments.’
Mr Tett also called on community-spirited residents to check on any elderly or vulnerable neighbours.