Council ready for the worst of the winter weather

Gritter Garbo, Melton John, Alexander the Grit and the Brighton Belle are ready and waiting to hit the city’s roads this winter.

The aptly named council gritting machines are already on high alert to tackle any freezing conditions that may sweep across Brighton & Hove during the coming months.

Although the weather is mild at present, the council’s Winter Duty Managers are geared up for the first icy snap of this year by launching their annual 24 hours a day, seven days a week service from now until next March – and beyond if necessary.

The council has seven gritters, seven ploughs, six hand spreaders, one pavement gritter, and three tractors and JCBs, for use in severe weather conditions, at the ready.

The team immediately kicks into action to manage the worst winter weather, including snow; ice; hoar frost, formed from white ice crystals; and freezing rain, which freezes as soon as it hits the road and can form dangerous black ice. 

The winter duty managers use the very latest weather technology, assessing the forecasts every lunchtime every day and, if needed, try to ensure salt and grit is spread before severe cold weather strikes.

To tackle the icy conditions the council has 1,500 tonnes of salt stored at CityClean’s Hollingdean depot, with 1,000 tonnes more in storage at Shoreham Harbour. The average amount of salt used per winter is about 800 tonnes.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, chair of the city’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, said:  “Keeping the city safe and moving, and protecting the most vulnerable, during severe weather is a huge operation which takes year round planning and collaboration between many departments and organisations.

“The winter service covers all main roads and all bus routes within the city, plus access to emergency service depots. This includes ploughing and salt gritting almost 200 miles of roads, snow ploughing, pavement clearing and filling grit bins for residents to use.”

In normal winter conditions, pre-salting the road network is carried out to prevent ice or frost forming. This means traffic will mix the salt into any surface water and help prevent freezing.

However, in snow conditions, salt will only melt a very thin layer of snow and/or ice. When this happens the team try to reclaim the roads as soon as possible, and particularly once snow has stopped.

At very low temperatures salt will have no effect at all, nor will it clear heavy snowfall for which a snow plough is needed. Extreme or severe winter conditions are when the snow is more than 50mm (2in) and is predicted to remain on the ground for longer than 36 hours.

Cllr Mitchell added: “During severe weather we try to keep clear all A roads, most B roads and prioritise bus routes and access to local hospitals.

“But we need the help of our residents too. It’s important we support each other during severe winter weather such as clearing paths and checking on elderly neighbours.”

During periods of prolonged heavy snowfall, certain pavements are cleared in priority order, with central shopping areas, pedestrian routes and around hospitals first, followed by other important pavements and local shopping areas.

As it’s not possible for the council to grit the 700 miles of pavements in the city – the same distance from Brighton to John O’ Groats - there are 420 grit bins for residents to use. However, this grit should be used sparingly as the bins will only be refilled during very severe winter conditions, and this can divert staff from other important roles.

Other roads and routes the council does not salt or grit are those the Town Hall is not responsible for. 

These are the A23, M23, A27, A27 Brighton bypass and the A23 north of the A27 junction which are maintained by Highways England; Ditchling, Falmer and Saltdean borders are covered by East Sussex County Council, and Fishersgate and Devils Dyke borders are the responsibility of West Sussex Highways.

For more information and advice to keeping safe during winter, please see our winter weather page.