Self help in cold weather

After the recent severe weather Shropshire Council’s December snow clearance attracted some criticism – and Much Wenlock was no exception. Whilst the primary and secondary routes (the A and B roads and some others) were ploughed and gritted fairly early on in accordance with longstanding policy, some minor roads didn’t receive much or early attention.

There was special criticism for the absence of any treatment to the pavements around the town and this extended to other places such as Benthall where many local residents in the Bentlands found themselves effectively trapped in their homes.  In view of the harsh conditions, at a Barrow Parish Council meeting I expressed the view that the elderly and vulnerable were better served by relying on their younger and fitter neighbours than venturing out in the cold and on slippery footways.

Nonetheless, I recognise that more could be done to keep our footways and public places clear. Some householders very clearly had done an excellent job of clearing the footway outside their houses. One Much Wenlock trader cleared the High Street pavement outside all of the shops early one morning. Whilst keeping a sense of proportion, safer streets means that folk can access the shops and cafés, children can get to school with the reduced risk of slipping, and doctors, dentists and optician appointments can be kept. This is predicated, of course, on the assumption that all of these establishments are staffed, which wasn’t always the case because of the road conditions.

Around the country, some town and parish councils triggered their snow warden scheme to good effect. Some did nothing and offered no advice to local residents. However, examples of what I believe is best practice includes advice to volunteers from Devon County CouncilTelford & Wrekin Council and Dover District Council. And a proactive approach by Heath & Holmewood Parish Council and Hartington Nether Quarter Parish Council, both in Derbyshire is worth considering too.  

Really clear and good advice can be dispensed easily by town and parish councils through their websites. Bentley Parish Council is an excellent example. I spoke to George Candler, Director of Place for Shropshire Council a few days ago and he welcomed my suggestion that the Council’s website could be more helpful to folk who wish to free their streets from the winter’s icy grip. He undertook to take on board my comments in the annual winter maintenance review that will take place in May.

Such community volunteer schemes are just a short step from the litter-picking that is carried out in Barrow, Much Wenlock and other villages and towns across Shropshire, and indeed the whole country. Hopefully there’ll be some more news on this soon.