Highways chiefs in Huddersfield have hit back at criticism of their gritting operations in the current Arctic blast.

And they revealed parked cars blocking roads - and the theft of grit from street bins - is hampering operations.

Kirklees Council has faced criticism from many quarters over their operations over the past 72 hours, since heavy snow on Boxing Day.

But the council insisted gritting has been taking place throughout the spell of cold weather and there has been a full grit, at least once, every day since Christmas Eve.

 

“We currently have 17 gritters working on high-level priority routes and starting to move into the estate type roads, although parked cars are making this difficult.

“The gritters will target the higher estates and communities initially, such as Lindley, Chickenley, Fixby, Holmfirth, Colne Valley, Emley and Grange Moor.

“Extra resources are also being used to target other areas, including local shopping areas and large surgeries.

“Our secondary routes have to be a lower priority so that the main network can be treated. However, the council provides around 1200 grit bins at various locations throughout Kirklees for residents to use on their street.

“Unfortunately, some residents choose to take the grit from these bins and use it on their own property – or even take it to sell.

“This reduces the amount that’s left for the actual, intended purpose, which is to help residents help themselves by putting grit on the lower priority routes.

“We currently have gangs out replenishing grit bins.

“Our winter maintenance programme is kept under review so that improvements can be made where necessary.

“We would remind people that it’s important to park vehicles in a way that does not cause an obstruction which could prevent gritters and emergency vehicles getting through.

“We can reassure residents that Highways staff are working extremely hard to deal with the current cold snap”.

The spokesman said it was important to stress that not all gritting vehicles are yellow with flashing lights and therefore people may not realise that a road has been treated.

Weather conditions also make winter maintenance particularly difficult as grit becomes less effective when temperatures drop well below freezing.

He said: “Roads are prioritised based on their usage and the gritting routes are detailed on our web pages, www.kirklees.gov.uk/winter

Emley village, where bus services were disrupted on the icy roads.
 

“It is not possible to grit the entire road network across the district because it covers 1200 miles. Priority routes are main roads which carry essential traffic, such as public transport, fuel and food deliveries”.

The spokesman said the priority network covers 60% of the overall road network in Kirklees and comprises major roads, main bus routes and steep main distributor roads.

He said: “The national average for priority networks is around 38%, so ensuring treatment of 60% of the network allows us to make sure as many roads as possible are kept open and passable”.

But on the Examiner Facebook page, residents have been criticising the council for the number of icy roads across Kirklees.

Mark Brereton said: "I came home from work at 6 this morning and the roads didn't look as if they had been gritted, some very icy roads up and down Kirklees."

Claire Elizabeth Bull said: "I had to call into work both Saturday and Sunday because the roads were so bad I was skidding everywhere and couldn't manage to make the journey. So I've lost two days pay."

Paul Ryan added: "Most pavements are dangerous. Can't gritting lorries be slightly modified to throw some grit onto pavements? Over the weekend I put Torville and Dean to shame and will be a star on next years 'Dancing On Ice'."

Tori Campbell said: "Some of the roads are shocking. When were the roads gritted?? Shelley, Shepley and Emley are horrendous. Pull your fingers out Kirklees Council and get gritting, same every year so shouldn't be surprised really."