FEARS have been raised that less salt could be spread on roads across the Staffordshire Moorlands in freezing conditions after it emerged the number of gritting runs is to be cut.
It has been confirmed that roads across the county are to be gritted once throughout the night instead of in the early morning and evening.
At present, Staffordshire County Council wagons grit the highways during severe cold weather at 5am and then again at 6pm.
But at last week’s meeting of Waterhouses Parish Council, major concerns were raised when it was claimed that grit wagons were being cut by 50 per cent and that some lorries were to be sold.
The county council confirmed yesterday that the move would save £500,000.
Councillor Eddie Simpson said: “I have been informed reliable source that the county council is to cut back the number of grit wagons available. If grit wagons complete a two-hour run they will have to do four hours. They will therefore not be able to get around the area.
“I have also been informed that half of the wagons could be disposed of. This will definitely lead to a poorer service.
“People just look at maps, but it does not work in areas like the Moorlands.
“Where has the county council spend money on roads in this area? There have not spent for years except for a few potholes. We are not getting a decent service.”
Councillor Andrew Carr said the parish council should ask for a list of gritting routes.ting routes across the district.
He said: “We need to know when the roads are being gritted and what the procedure is.”
News of the move comes as the region awaits the first snow of the season. However, Leek Rural county councillor Gill Heath, who is also the cabinet support member for rural affairs on the authority, said it was to deliver the gritting service in a more “economical” way which was more beneficial for the taxpayer.
She said: “The service is not being reduced across the Staffordshire Moorlands. We are maintaining the gritting service in a different way.
“Now wagons go out at 5am and then again at 6pm in freezing conditions.
“In future a night shift is to be started where lorries will grit roads throughout the night.
“This means they can do more mileage as they will not be held up in traffic.”
“This will reduce the need for so many vehicles because they will be doing twice as much in the future, so there will not be any need to replace some of the lorries when they reach the end of their lease time.
“Grit will stop on the road longer and be more sufficient as there will not be a lot of traffic to run over it as soon as it has been spread.
“Snow ploughs will be available just the same when required in the Moorlands.
“Also farmers in the district are on the list ready to assist if conditions call for them. We are committed to the winter programme.”
But Councillor Linday Malyon, speaking to the Post & Times yesterday, said: “Gritting through the night will not benefit road users.
“Freezing rain throughout the night could wash away the grit for early morning drivers.
“There will also be lots of cars parked on the roadside so the grit won’t spread across the road properly.”
She added the changes were a “false economy that could put drivers at risk”.
Drivers also reacted with dismay at the news. Stephen Jones, aged 62, of Leek, said: “I can’t see how having less gritters and fewer journeys will clear the roads as efficiently.
“It’s bad enough in the Staffordshire Moorlands already, because we are so high up.
“Last March there was snow all over the place for weeks - how can putting less grit down be an improvement?”