True grit in Walthamstow this winter

First published in Blogs East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by

There was plenty of sign of true grit in Walthamstow over the last few snowy days. Just none, sadly, displayed by the council.

Skittering along the pavements on the black ice near where I live were mothers with prams, out to buy something for their kids to eat, and vulnerable pensioners in solid boots trying to top up their electricity. The weather wasn’t deterring the locals – they were getting on with what they had to do, despite the conditions.

Of course, with schools and nurseries shut, many of us weren’t getting on with what we normally would – but were having a grand old laugh throwing snowballs and sledging instead – perhaps that’s the excuse the council will give us – they were too busy having fun to get the gritters out.

As I type this on Tuesday afternoon, Sunday/Monday’s heavy snowfall has been trampled down over Monday night to form a layer of black ice, not just on the sidestreets and pavements around Walthamstow town centre, but even in high footfall locations like outside the Arcade site and along the High Street (the market is on) and Hoe Street. Even here, there’s no sign of any gritting on the road, or more importantly, pavement.

A lack of grit on the part of the council means that vulnerable and elderly people with walking problems can’t leave their homes and can’t get to the shops. It means an increase in falls and slips – which the national press are already reporting has led to many A&Es across the country being overwhelmed. And it really is the pavement that needs doing.

Despite massive snowfall, the key roads around Walthamstow remained free of ice simply because of the amount of traffic on the tarmac. So while steep hills and minor roads definitely need grit as soon as possible to stop drivers skidding into parked cars/each other, it’s far more urgent to get the pavements ice-free.

Councillors are always keen for a photo-opportunity of them emptying bins (note how well the rubbish collection system is working currently). I’m surprised they’ve not been pictured out there with a shovel and a bucketful of the brown pebbly stuff. But no sign (so far) of the shirkers. Instead, we’ll get excuses by the bucketful and a shovel-load of rubbish about “priorities”.

It’s not as if the weather was unexpected (it was widely warned of last week). Or that the council has a policy not to grit. The council’s own “winter maintenance plan” (available here - found by Guardian reader Ferdy50) says Waltham Forest will carry out “precautionary gritting of roads in anticipation of freezing conditions; gritting of major roads in adverse conditions; gritting of footways and footpaths” with priority going to “high pedestrian use” and “shopping areas”.

Any chance the council will apologise for another idiotic display of buffoonery? Or will it just try and melt away from responsibility once more?

Comments (2)

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11:06pm Wed 4 Feb 09

Janet1 says...

So the 'winter maintenance plan' is just another bit of fiction from Waltham Forest council. Why do they get away with making stuff up?
A few people round our way have cleared the pavement in front of our houses, which is what everyone used to do. Apart from that, it's as you say, like an ice rink.
So the 'winter maintenance plan' is just another bit of fiction from Waltham Forest council. Why do they get away with making stuff up? A few people round our way have cleared the pavement in front of our houses, which is what everyone used to do. Apart from that, it's as you say, like an ice rink. Janet1
  • Score: 0

10:22am Tue 10 Feb 09

jphillips says...

In my view we all have a responsibility to clear snow from the pavements outside our homes and businesses - isn't it a civic duty afterall?
However, the council could lead the way by encouraging home owners and business owners to do so. Why don't they come up with some innovative initiative to get us all to act with civic pride?
In my view we all have a responsibility to clear snow from the pavements outside our homes and businesses - isn't it a civic duty afterall? However, the council could lead the way by encouraging home owners and business owners to do so. Why don't they come up with some innovative initiative to get us all to act with civic pride? jphillips
  • Score: 0
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