As the evenings draw in and the weather starts to turn colder, Bridgend County Borough Council has plans in place for supporting residents and keeping the county borough moving throughout the winter months.
The council’s annual Winter Maintenance Plan lays out how the authority will treat roads, prioritise routes, clear snow and keep traffic moving.
With more than 790km of highways network to look after, the plan identifies the most important routes throughout the county borough and takes into account centres for the emergency services, public transport, isolated villages, streets on steep inclines, industrial and shopping areas, schools, approaches to cemeteries, GP surgeries, care homes and more.
It also outlines secondary roads which are dealt with after the main highways network has been treated.
The council stores up to 5,100 tonnes of salt and has plans in place for replenishing stocks during prolonged bouts of severe winter weather. Collaborative arrangements with neighbouring authorities mean that the council can also give and receive help as required.
Every day, the authority receives three specific weather forecasts from approved national winter forecasting organisation, DTN. These cover inland high-ground, inland low-ground and coastal areas to reflect the county borough’s varied geographical mix of valleys and coastline communities.
In addition, the council maintains five remote weather stations at different locations across the county borough. These use equipment such as ice sensors to provide the authority with a range of information including atmospheric conditions and local road surface temperatures.
These details are used to predict what the weather conditions are likely to be, and if action is necessary.
When temperatures drop, the council pre-treats the busiest parts of the road network with granulated rock salt to prevent frost and ice, and can call upon gritters and other specially-designed vehicles to keep roads clear.
In order to work effectively, road salting relies on a number of factors including dampness and humidity – rain will wash freshly-laid salt away, while salt put down on top of fresh snow is not as effective. Similarly, road salt no longer works once temperatures fall below -10 degrees, so the council is very careful about when and how it salts roads.
When snow has fallen, routes have to be cleared with ploughs before they can be treated, and the council uses specialist equipment assist in the clearance of priority footways and pedestrian areas.
Bridgend County Borough Council maintains in excess of 400 grit bins across the county borough, a proportion of which have been provided in conjunction with community and town councils. These are usually located along residential roads and other minor routes, particularly where there may be junctions or steep hills, and are coloured yellow to make them easy to locate.
Before the start of each winter season, the bins are filled with a mix of salt and sharp sand. This is available for use by residents and motorists to help them travel through local streets when conditions deteriorate.
The council also maintains plans for how frontline services will cope during severe weather, including homecare and kerbside recycling and refuse collections. If a school has to close due to severe weather or related problems such as e.g. a burst water pipe, headteachers keep parents and pupils informed by updating a dedicated webpage at the council website.
Libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools and other premises can all be affected by severe weather. While the council and its partners make every effort to keep facilities open, it is not always possible to do so, especially if staff can’t get to work. In situations where a closure is necessary, the authority aims to make this as temporary as possible, and to resume normal service quickly and safely.
Cllr Stuart Baldwin, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “The council lays down plans well in advance for dealing with severe weather conditions, and our Winter Maintenance Plan ensures that the authority is well prepared.
“Council staff work around the clock, often in terrible conditions, to provide services and keep the county borough moving, and you can be assured that we will do all that we can to minimise disruption and inconvenience caused by severe winter weather.”