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Council gets ready to tackle winter roads

The council's depot at Cowley Road in Blyth. Picture from Google
The council's depot at Cowley Road in Blyth. Picture from Google

It may be the height of summer, but Northumberland County Council is spending almost £1million preparing for winter.

Councillors approved investment of £993,456 to protect stocks of salt for gritting the roads at last week’s meeting of the decision-making cabinet.

This will pay for new salt barns in Allendale and Blyth as well as ‘sheeting solutions’ at Powburn and Rothbury.

Overall, £3.2million has been earmarked – including £900,000 this year and £900,000 in 2019-20 – to provide covered storage facilities for rock salt.

Currently, around 24,000 tonnes is stored uncovered across a number of depots in Northumberland.

A report explains that up to 12 per cent of the uncovered stock dissolves and washes away during the winter, wasting salt material which currently costs up to £34.50 per tonne.

Over and above the financial cost, the salt can pollute local groundwater and watercourses, which could result in action by the Environment Agency.

The total project costs for the new barns at Allendale and Blyth are £370,571 and £365,571 respectively, while £125,000 will be spent on sheeting for Powburn and  £42,000 for Rothbury. The overall budget contains a 10 per cent contingency.

The report explains: ‘Powburn is used as a strategic salt store for the county rather than as an operational depot and therefore salt can be covered using a sheeting solution.

‘Rothbury Depot is an operational depot but due to its riverside location is also susceptible to flooding and it is not felt advisable to invest in a salt barn solution at such a site, a sheeting solution is therefore proposed for this depot.’

Rothbury’s county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “It seems somewhat illogical to spend £42,000 on a cover to stop rainwater washing road salt into the river, when the depot is in such close proximity to the river and has in fact resulted in huge quantities of salt and fuel being washed straight into the river during previous flood events in 2008 and 2009.

“I have written to Coun Sanderson (cabinet member for highways), suggesting that the depot be moved to a piece of land that is within the council portfolio, sits above the floodplain, has better access than the current depot and will mean that vehicles do not need to be moved every time the river breaks its banks.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service