Monday, 11 October 2010

As Another Freezing Winter Looms, Council Hands Out 2,000 Spades and Tells Residents: 'Dig Yourselves Out When it Snows'


Council chiefs have sparked outrage after proposing residents dig themselves out of the snow as Britain braces itself for another winter of Arctic conditions.

As long-range forecasts suggest the country will be hit by blizzards and temperatures plummeting to -20c, bosses at Camden Council prepared to hand out spades.

But their solution to the bitter weather has been slammed by those who remember the headache of last year's gritting crisis which brought widespread disruption and left people trapped in their homes.

The north London council's proposal involves a 'self-help' scheme in which people can ring and request a shovel.

The authority plans to give out more than 2,000 spades to community centres and groups, shopkeepers and families to help clear clogged-up roads and pavements.

Eleanor Botwright, director of Castlehaven Community Centre, said: 'It is not quite dig your own grave but it is a double-edged sword.

'In some instances I am sure it will be helpful but if people pay their council tax, that is supposed to be used for that.

'And what happens to the weak and the frail or people with buggies?'
Tony Hillier, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, added: 'I think it is a daft idea.

All the shovels will be stolen.

'More grit bins everywhere is what is needed - that would be much more sensible.'

Camden council insisted shovels would not replace gritting on roads and pavements.

The authority's proposals came as experts warned the coming months could bring a repeat of last year's bitterly cold winter which proved to be the coldest for 31 years.

Transport chaos on the scale seen in January and February when blizzard conditions paralysed the road and rail networks is also feared if the long-range forecast proves accurate.

Positive Weather Solutions, which correctly predicted last summer's washout and the previous Big Freeze, has forecast a bleak couple of months with temperatures near last year's low of -22.3C in Altnaharra, Scotland.

According to forecasts, December will see unsettled weather, chiefly affecting the higher ground across the eastern and north-eastern side of the country, and it could well herald a White Christmas.

Meanwhile January will deliver a cold and bright start with some sharp frosts at night.

Sleet and snow showers are predicted to become increasingly widespread, with the potential to cause disruption - particularly in eastern and upland regions.

The wintry weather is set to continue into February which is forecast to be a bitterly cold month.

Forecasters expect the beginning of 2011 to be besieged by disruptive snowfalls across the country, echoing the sub-zero temperatures which saw parts of Britain struggling under up to 12 inches of snow earlier this year.

A spokesman for Camden council said: 'Following last year’s harsh winter, Camden council is looking at helping local people take responsibility for clearing snow from their own frontages.

'Although the plans are still in the early stages of development, the idea will be to offer community groups snow shovels and practical advice so that they can help keep footways clear of snow
'This will not replace the council gritting roads and pavements, the council will always aim to do this but unfortunately we can never keep all non-priority footways clear of snow, owing to the limited resources we have available.'
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