Gritting and clearing priorities

We aim to treat priority routes before the road surface temperatures fall to 0°C.

Precautionary gritting is carried out on A and B roads, commuter routes, steep main roads to villages, housing or industrial estates, including roads leading to main hospitals and large schools.

Gritting is carried out on 40 per cent of roads - roads used by more than 90 per cent of all the traffic in the district. On average, you are never more than 400 metres away from a treated route.

What you need to know

Persistent snow and ice

In long periods of lying snow or ice, access roads to other schools, estates and minor access roads in hilly or exposed locations will be treated on a priority basis.

Treatment is carried out around the clock until precautionary routes are clear of snow or ice. This includes Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Pedestrian routes - footpaths, shopping precincts and subways

Town and city centre precincts and the very busiest footways are inspected early morning during winter and any ice or frost is treated. 

Other roads and footways are only treated during severe conditions of ice or snow once these priority routes have been cleared. This is to make sure resources are used in the most efficient way. For example, any areas that are due for a waste recycling collection will be cleared first.

Footways are prioritised in the following order:

  • Town centre streets/main pedestrian routes
  • Shopping fronts
  • Busy pedestrian routes
  • Hospital and doctors surgery fronts/routes
  • School fronts/routes
  • Community centre fronts
  • Steep sections of footways
  • Predominantly elderly resident areas
  • Other residential areas
  • Industrial estates ​

The Truth About Grit – find out more about how grit works

What is grit?

Rock salt (sodium chloride) is often referred to as grit. It is crushed into small pieces to be able to spread on the road surface.

What does it do?

The grit works by dissolving into a solution, lowering the freezing temperature of water, which prevents ice or frost forming on the road.  

How does it work on ice?

For salt to work effectively it needs to be in a solution, so when you put salt onto ice that has already formed (it actually needs some moisture to start working) it takes longer to get to work on the ice to start lowering its freezing temperature and turning it back into water.

How does it work on snow?

It works in the same way as with ice, but simply putting salt on snow won't make it magically turn into water - it needs the action of traffic to mix the salt in and allow it to turn into a solution to start the cycle of lowering the freezing point and turning the snow back into water.

For grit to work most effectively it needs traffic to crush and spread it across the road. When it snows heavily at night, though a road is gritted, the snow will often still settle.

How do we decide when to grit?  

We receive a specialised highway-focussed weather forecast every day and specially trained officers monitor the road surface temperature to determine whether to grit, which priority routes to grit and the optimum time to act. 

How do we decide where to grit?

Our priority gritting routes are used by 90% of the district's traffic. 'Precautionary' (before the frost, ice, snow is formed) treatment is carried out on A and B roads, commuter routes, steep main roads to villages, housing or industrial estates, including roads leading to main hospitals and large schools.

A map of our priority gritting routes is available here

What happens in heavy snow events? 

In continuous or excessive snow conditions, the gritting teams will plough the routes as well but this may mean the routes take longer to complete. In extreme situations, priority will be given to the main roads only and then extended to the remaining priority routes when resources are available.

The best time to grit? 

Roads are treated with salt before the road surface temperature reaches zero degrees Celsius. In doing so, and once in solution, the salt lowers the temperature of any water present and stops it freezing.      

When not to grit?

Difficulties can arise when rain is forecast to continue right up to the time of freezing or when the rain is forecast to turn to snow. When this happens, the gritters wait until the rain has stopped or the salt will be washed away.

How can you help us?

Please make sure your vehicle is parked in a safe place and not restricting access for our gritting vehicles. And please remember that when the vehicles are fitted with snow ploughs they need extra room to be able to access residential roads.

Residents can also volunteer to be Snow Wardens to clear pavements and local streets to help their neighbours and more vulnerable citizens who can't help themselves.  

As a Snow Warden you will be equipped with a snow shovel, a fluorescent Snow Warden tabard and gloves and have access to salt.

What else do we do?

We have experts monitoring the weather and road conditions around the clock through winter months.

We also stock 340 grit bins throughout the district. The grit bins allow residents to treat the roads and footways in extreme winter weather.

Our gritting operations – the facts

  • 14 spreading vehicles

  • 22 drivers who work in rotas to provide 24 hour cover

  • 553 km of priority gritting route

  • Takes 2-3 hours for 12 spreading vehicles to treat the priority routes

  • 61 tonnes of grit used for each full treatment of all the priority routes

  • 4500 tonnes of salt in stock 

You will need to tell us:

  • Where you need the grit
  • Specific details of the request
    For example, street to be gritted or added to an existing gritting route, location of grit bin
  • The reasons why it should be gritted or added

Request road gritting or ploughing

If you wish to request road gritting or ploughing, please fill in our online form, after which we will receive an application number. If you provide us with an email address an automated acknowledgment of your request will be sent to you. 

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