Shropshire Council has been stalling on setting up a volunteer scheme to clear pavements of snow and ice for nearly a decade. Yet this week alone, there have been many reports of falls including broken bones in Ludlow alone. It’s shocking and it is time to for the council act by introducing a volunteer snow warden scheme and clearing some particularly dangerous pavements and footpaths itself.
I hate to say it’s the tip of the iceberg given the weather conditions but the map that illustrates this article is based on 89 reports incidents of falls and dangerous pavements sent to me on Facebook and Messenger in the last 24 hours. It covers only incidents that have occurred since the snow fell last Sunday and froze on Monday and only those reported to me.
The major and secondary roads have been gritted and grit has worked its way onto some side streets on the tyres of cars. Some side roads have been gritted by residents. The pavements however remain ungritted and in some they areas remain extremely hazardous to the point of being lethal. All the focus is on getting cars around without accidents. Pavements are largely ignored. Especially here in Ludlow.
At least 50 people have fallen in Ludlow in the last week. There have been four reports of broken wrists, two of broken arms, one each of a damaged elbow, concussion, a broken finger and broken hip. On Friday, the Minor Injuries Unit at Ludlow Hospital saw five patients who had fallen on pavements.
Some of those falling have hit their head but walked away, usually after passers by helped them up. Some school pupils seem to have been prevented from suffering injuries by their backpacks. “He hit his head but is ok.” “My two year old had a fall and I almost went. Good job he had his bag on otherwise he would have knocked himself out!” It is not just children saved from injury by backpacks: “My husband fell over on Julian Road. His back is a bit sore but he is lucky that his work laptop is okay as he landed on it.”
It is Shropshire Council’s responsibility to keep the pavements clear of ice and safe to walk on. That’s a near impossible task but the council could make an effort to grit the most important and dangerous pavements.
Portcullis Lane runs from the former Budgens past the Library to Tesco. It is iced along its length because it is shielded from the sun. At its lower end is steep and bumpy. There have been several falls there this week, at least two resulting in injury. The whole of Sandpits area is iced up, including outside the two schools. The footbridge over the Corve by the car wash. Julian Road. Hamlet Road. The list of dangerous pavements is lengthy.
People are scared to go out in these conditions. Sometimes they must go out to their GP surgery or for other essential journeys and the evidence of the past week is that carries a risk of falling. It shouldn’t be like this in the 21st century.
So why doesn’t Shropshire Council act? Although it now has a policy to promote active travel, walking and cycling, it seems oblivious to the dangers pedestrians face in snow and ice events.
Just up the road in Telford, there is a team of volunteer snow wardens who are trained, insured and willing to go out and grit their neighbourhood pavements. Yet Shropshire Council has been rejecting this sensible idea for the last decade.
I called for snow warden scheme as long ago as 2013 but the former unitary councillor for Ludlow South rejected the idea saying: “It would take a Chinese Army to clear the pavements.” In 2017, I called for residents to clear their pavements, pointing out that if they acted responsibly, they cannot be held responsible for any accidents. In 2018, Green Party councillor Julian Dean and I put forward a motion, also backed by Labour, asking for the chief executive to investigate a snow warden scheme. The Conservatives kicked that into touch by referring it to scrutiny. On 12 July 2018, the Place Overview committee heard from the highways manager:
“A number of new initiatives [are proposed], such as use of the internet and social media to provide improved guidance to householders and shop owners the appropriate action to remove snow and ice from frontages. Also, pilot schemes working with Town and Parish Councils establishing snow volunteers and pot hole wardens were proposed.”
The pilot schemes never happened and idea of snow wardens (let alone pot hole wardens) faded from the council’s corporate memory.
Shropshire Council has set up a scheme to encourage schools to grit their nearby pavements. But it is way past time the council set up a county-wide snow warden scheme. Such a scheme won’t clear all pavements but if just some stretches are cleared, it will be an improvement.
Meanwhile, the council should grit danger areas, including Portcullis Lane and Corve footbridge as a priority