Release date: 31 July 2019
A new plan outlines what residents can expect when it comes to maintaining West Sussex’s highways.
With ever-tightening budgets, safety and value for money criteria have been key to deciding new service levels which include grass cutting, weed spraying and winter gritting.
Roger Elkins, Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure, said: “Local authorities across the country are facing unprecedented financial pressures and West Sussex is no exception. Due to increasing demand on social care services and a continued reduction in central government funding, we have been forced to make very difficult decisions to balance our budget.
“Safety remains our top priority but we also have to find ways to do more with income we get from council tax and provide value for money.”
For many years, groups of volunteers and parish/town councils have worked in partnership with West Sussex Highways to help look after local areas.
Roger said: “Grass cutting and winter planning are two examples of this. Some parish councils already work with us to arrange extra grass cuts at their expense and, last year, we had more than 150 community winter plans in place, with 50 volunteer farmers on standby to help with snow clearance. Parish and town councils work with farmers or contractors if the need arises.
“This is an opportunity for me to thank everyone who has been working with us in this way over the years. In the coming months, we will be engaging with communities to see if even more people would like to help, if they can.”
Other initiatives in the pipeline include improvements to the Love West Sussex online reporting tool which will make it even easier to report problems with a road or pavement.
The council would welcome hearing from local groups or organisations who would be interested in finding out more about the community offer and what support the council can provide to groups wanting to do more to help look after their local area. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
Summary of areas included in the new maintenance plan, which is subject to the council’s usual call-in period:
Our grass cutting services will be designed to meet safety needs while providing value for money and increasing bio-diversity.
Scheduling grass cutting is a difficult balancing act, as growth is so dependent on seasonal factors, such as rain and sunshine. We have been cutting urban grass maintained at public expense up to seven times per year between March and November.
There is no statutory minimum level of grass cutting over and above what is needed to ensure the highway is safe. However, nationally-recognised guidance suggests five cuts in urban areas would achieve a reasonable balance between maintaining the street scene and ensuring highway safety.
We will now provide up to five urban cuts a year and make a commitment to: work with partner authorities so they can arrange extra cuts at their expense; work with interested organisations to increase bio-diversity; promote conservation of the ecology and roadside verges.
We can no longer afford to carry out routine weed spraying. Instead, we will be focusing efforts on targeted spraying of footpaths, using non-herbicides, where there is a safety issue. Our annual programme to control Japanese’s Knotweed and Giant Hogweed is unaffected by this change.
Gritting (precautionary salting)
Under the new plan, West Sussex Highways would continue to keep watch on the winter weather forecasts, ready to deploy gritters on a priority basis, to keep main routes open and passable with care.
The A27, A23 and M23 are the responsibility of Highways England. The county council is responsible for other ‘A’ roads, plus ‘B’ roads and keeping routes of local importance safe, such as major bus routes, roads to large schools and key hospitals and large industrial establishments.
It is important that we focus our efforts on treating roads during cold weather where there is high demand. Details of the new gritting routes will be published in the winter service plan. This will be available later this year.
We will continue to top-up community salt bins at strategic locations before the onset of winter and work with local communities and farmers during very cold weather.
Where we will clear snow will be based on the same area as the new salting network.