St Albans Council takes tough stance on winter preparations

ST ALBANS District Council is to demand a definitive decision from the government over whether residents risk being sued for being good citizens by clearing snow and ice from footpaths, should any passerby slip this winter.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, councillors agreed to a raft of measures to ensure the city is better prepared in the event of another severe cold snap after the widespread chaos suffered during the past two years, when agencies faced the worst winters in decades.

The council will press government on behalf of residents and business owners to clarify whether they are protected against negligence claims when they clear snow or ice from footways.

Bosses have prioritised footfall areas owned or controlled by it for clearing. Should severe weather hit St Albans again this winter, high traffic areas in city centres, pedestrian areas and major car parks are top priority; footpaths used by large numbers of vulnerable people such as around old peoples’ homes are second priority while parks are last on the list.

A survey of 300 people pinpointed locals’ main priorities for ice and snow clearance as hills and slopes, car parks, shopping centres, high streets and footpaths. The council will also buy a tractor that can be fitted with a snow plough and salt attachments, although the �15,000 funding needed to purchase those attachments has not yet been allocated.

The council is responsible for pavements on highways and footways on council owned or controlled land. Hertfordshire Highways maintains the county’s 3,000 miles of roads. Herts Highways provides winter service for roads and highways but seeks help from St Albans council to treat priority footways in the district.

Councillors have also agreed to an initiative where, for the treatment of council’s property, bagged salt will this month be distributed to salt bins, contractors and town and parish councils, at a cost of �26,000, representing 20-days usage. Town and parish councils have also been offered a salt spreader.

Most Read

No-go area

Councillors had debated last winter’s snow debacle at length at an overview and scrutiny meeting last week, labelling Hatfield Road as “diabolical” and a “no-go area” during severe weather last year from Fleetville to the city centre as the footpath had “shiny, slippy ice,” forcing pedestrians to walk on the busy road instead.

Risk management and community resilience officer Ian Skelt said council would do its “damnedest” to keep busy paths clear, but he did not want to give councillors “unrealistic expectations that every day all of those areas [on the priority list] will be done 100 per cent.”

Cllr Geoff Harrison said having lived in Yorkshire where snow was the norm rather than the exception, he had been “gobstruck” at Hertfordshire Highways’ inability to cope with a “bit of snow”.

Ian Skelt replied that St Albans council would stockpile about 10 tonnes of salt – representing two days usage – to enable priority footways to be cleared straight away.

He said: “In the past we have had to wait for salt to be delivered which meant that we were always behind.”

Contractors and council staff would help clear paths, with Housing Department staff to clear areas around council’s elderly persons’ homes. Car park operator NCP will clear priority car parks and Leisure Connection will clear certain areas around leisure and sports centres. Enterprise will clear footpaths on highways, amenity land, toilets on the street and some areas of park.

n Overflowing rubbish bins during severe cold weather should be a problem of the past after St Albans district councillors at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting agreed that disruptions to collections lasting more than three days during winter will result in a “take all” refuse policy being implemented.

Residents will be prewarned of this arrangement which effectively means that locals will be able to put out both green and black wheeled bins for collection, with contents being collected by the same vehicle and taken to landfill, following three days of disruption.

The cabinet also gave the go-ahead for rubbish collection crews to wear slip-on snow shoes over safety boots to help them walk on snow and ice.

All of the cabinet recommendations, including the snow preparations, have to be ratified by full council.