‘I’ve had calls telling me to resign’ admits councillor responsible for Norfolk’s roads after snow chaos
11:25 16 January 2013
The councillor with responsibility for Norfolk’s response to snow and ice on roads has received personal calls for him to resign, he revealed this morning.
Graham Plant, the cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, told a meeting at County Hall that he had taken telephone calls at his home saying he should quit his post over the authority’s handling of the snowfall.
But he paid tribute to the gritting crews, which he said had been going out continuously since Sunday.
He said: “The snowstorm, widely described as a whiteout, was far heavier than anything forecast. This fell so quickly it covered the grit already on the highway and was quickly compacted by the traffic.
“The congestion which quickly developed due to the poor driving conditions meant that the gritters already out on the roads became stuck in traffic.
“On top of that, parts of the A47 were closed for long stretches and traffic which would normally be on the Southern bypass was diverted onto the city road network.
“We understand people’s frustration and have every sympathy with those who were inconvenienced.
“But, under the circumstances, we do not see what more could have been done to improve the situation in what were exceptional circumstances.”
Mr Plant added: “I would like to pay tribute to the staff who are hard at work on our fleet of gritters who have put in a tremendous effort to keep Norfolk’s roads moving in what have been very difficult circumstances. They really are unsung heroes who deserve our praise and respect.
“I can report that one of our gritters came off the road neart Griston at 3am this morning. The driver was uninjured and another vehicle completed the run.
“It is pertinent to note the time this incident occurred and is a lesson to those who say they haven’t seen a gritter out and about – a lot of the work is done while we are all asleep.”
The snowfall was being discussed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s environment, transport and development overview and scrutiny panel.
Bert Bremner, Labour councillor for University ward, said he was not critical of the council’s response to the snowfall, but added: “I think it would be valuable to have a look at it, because it haas happened twice in Norwich in recent years and there may be some ways in which we can look at other solutions.”
Mike Jackson, director of planning and transportation at County Hall, added that, as in previous years, there would be a review of how the authority handled the issue, although he did not see what could have been done differently.
He added: “We do review what happens every year and we will do that again. If there are lessons to learn we will learn them but I genuinely don’t see what we could have done differently.
“I would like to thank members for the support of the gritting teams. It’s a very difficult job and very demanding both physically and mentally and I know the guys who do it get a bit frustrated by complaints from people who say they do not see them.
“They have been out constantly since Sunday and they are out there every time they are needed.”
He also reiterated that the A47 and the A11 fall under the responsibility of the Highways Agency and not the county council.