Winter efforts praised by council and business leaders

DEVON County Council staff have been praised for keeping the county moving during the worst snowfall in Devon for more than 15 years.

DEVON County Council staff have been praised for keeping the county moving during the worst snowfall in Devon for more than 15 years.

A report to the County Council Executive today (Tuesday 10 February) revealed that business leaders and local residents have written to the Council to thank them for their efforts so far this winter.

Councillors were also united in their support for the efforts of staff. Last week, over 100 County Council staff and 315 staff from contractor South West Highways were mobilised to work around the clock to clear the snow, using 84 gritters and snow ploughs, and 95 other items of highway machinery. As a result of this effort, most major roads were passable within half a day and access to all but the most remote communities on the moors was restored within two days.

Devon County Council Leader Brian Greenslade said: "Very well done to all concerned and our thanks go to all our staff and those of all the other agencies that worked to keep Devon safe through this. In all of the difficulties we have faced in the past week and half Devon County Council has shown itself to be up to the task. We're only half way through winter and we've had the Ottery flooding and now snow storms, but the County Council has shown it is doing its job."

Councillor Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council Executive Member for Environment, said: "I would like to endorse all of the congratulations to all of the people on the ground who worked so hard, and I would also like to thank staff for their foresight in managing our salt stocks to see us through, and enabling us to help out our neighbours."

Thanks from the business community were led by Tim Jones, Chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council. He said: "The business community have universally praised the magnificent efforts by the County Council in keeping the highways as accessible as these extreme weather conditions would permit. It is appreciated what an enormously difficult task this represents and I know that you know how important it is that Devon keeps moving. Please accept our collective thanks."

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Shadow Leader John Hart said: "I would like to add my thanks to all involved from the council, blue light services, WRVS and Chudleigh Town Council. I drove up Haldon Hill at 6.15pm on Thursday night with nothing around whatsoever, so I was astounded when I heard it had become one of the biggest trouble spots in the county. Congratulations to all who worked through such bad conditions."

Leader of the Labour Group Councillor Saxon Spence said: "We do take our services for granted and this has shown how well organised our services are. It has been good to hear how complimentary people have been, and good planning does help a great deal. Let us hope this is the last time we need to congratulate people this winter."

Early estimates of costs from the Council's highways department could leave Devon County Council facing a bill of around �1 million.

The extreme weather led to the closure of about 130 schools and seven libraries on Friday. The response to these snow events was co-ordinated through Devon's County Council's Highway Operation Control Centre (HOCC) working with the County's Emergency Planning Team, the Police Gold control and emergency planners in the districts.

Emergency Planning also coordinated the emergency response to the stranded drivers on Haldon Hill and the A30 by setting up rest centres at Chudleigh Town Hall and Okehampton overnight on Thursday night, providing emergency supplies until the centres closed around lunchtime on Friday.

Over the weekend, snow clearance continued on the moors and into smaller communities especially in the Okehampton area where there were also additional problems with over 40 trees and branches which had to be cleared.

Salt stocks in Devon have remained high due to prudent planning in December when 6,000 tonnes of salt replenished depots around the county, when it was recognised that more salt than usual was being used to treat the network. At the start of the latest snow storms, Devon also ordered a further 9,000 tonnes.