Gritting defended

CIVIC leaders have defended county highways’ attempts to clear the roads after Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton ground to a halt this week after the heavy snow.

CIVIC leaders have defended county highways’ attempts to clear the roads after Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton ground to a halt this week after the heavy snow.

On Monday, both towns were grid-locked as exceptional snowfall hit the area, with bus and some train services suspended during the day and taxis unable to move.

Deliveries were virtually impossible, with shops running out of fresh goods, such as bread, as shoppers started panic buying.

By yesterday, some main roads were still passable only with care, while side roads had turned to thick ice after being left totally untreated.

As people abandoned cars and either walked to work or took enforced holidays, tempers became frayed.

Said one angry worker, walking from Budleigh Salterton to Exmouth yesterday: “It’s impossible to get my car out of the side streets, but why aren’t the main roads clear by now?

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“We always seem to get caught with our pants down. It seems to be the same every time we have bad weather.”

The main road to Knowle Hill was still dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians yesterday, while the major routes around Exmouth were covered with thick snow in places.

With pedestrians being forced to walk on the roads due to deep, packed icy snow on the pavements, another man walking five miles to work said: “I haven’t seen a gritter around for ages. I gather one broke down in Exmouth.”

One Littelahm resident, Raymond Rowley, said that, with buses cancelled and taxis unable to move on Monday, the elderly were cut off. “No buses, no taxis and no help for the old and the sick. The elderly are running out of food,” he said.

The chairman of the Exmouth Taxi Association, David Lean, said yesterday: “There was one taxi operating on Monday – me. I got as far as Budleigh, but it took two hours - and then I gave up. There is still hard, compacted ice on Salterton Road.”

District councillor Jill Elson, who runs the Exmouth Ring and Ride, transporting elderly and vulnerable people, said: “We had to take our buses off the road on Monday, but we hope to get the service back up and running to take people Christmas shopping.

“The problem is getting into cul-de-sacs as we pick people up from their front door. What people forget is the gritter drivers have to get here overnight.”

Mayor Darryl Nicholas said: “I think they have done a better job on the major roads than last year.

“I think it would be almost impossible to grit every road on every estate in Exmouth, unless people were charged thousands more in council tax.”

Cllr Brenda Taylor, who sits on the highways and traffic orders committee, said: “A lot of snow came down very quickly. The county council has 8,000 miles of roads to grit and has to concentrate on the main routes.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “Gritters have been treating primary routes this morning in Exmouth, and Dinan Way has been ploughed.

“The main shopping area in the town centre has been cleared with assistance from East Devon district and Exmouth town councils.

“Work is being done to keep local bus routes clear. Attention is also being given to other significant locations, such as doctors’ surgeries, police and ambulance stations and sheltered housing.”

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