DEVON County Council has agreed to up the ante of its cold weather gritting and snow clearance services this coming winter. The council Cabinet has agreed yesterday (Wednesday) to a series of measures to improve the service. Its primary salting network, w

DEVON County Council has agreed to up the ante of its cold weather gritting and snow clearance services this coming winter.

The council Cabinet has agreed yesterday (Wednesday) to a series of measures to improve the service.

Its primary salting network, which treats around 1,700 miles of roads as a precaution when ice, frost or snow is forecast, is now being extended to include main access routes to strategic cottage and community hospitals, and main access routes to secondary schools.

The council says this provides reasonable access to treated roads for 86 per cent of the population, carrying around 70 per cent of the traffic on Devon's roads.

The secondary salting network has been re-assessed and now includes the main access route to settlements with a population of between 100- 500, the parking areas of park and ride sites, bus routes with a service interval of 30 minutes or less and main access routes to council properties providing essential services.

The County Council has almost 3,000 grit bins and councillors agreed instruction labels should be installed on the bins, providing advice to members of the public on how the grit should be used.

Devon was ranked the best authority in the country for cold weather gritting (salting) and snow clearance by the National Highways and Transport Public Satisfaction Survey 2009.

Despite a national salt shortage, Devon did not run out of stocks, with more than 30,000 tonnes of salt used last winter - almost six times the amount used three winters earlier.

Other measures agreed by the Cabinet included encouraging lcola councils to appoint "snow wardens" to help clear roads and paths plus a self-help leaflet to explain to people what they can do to help themselves in treating their local roads using grit bins.

Discussions will also continue with the National Farmers' Union to establish what capability farmers have to support their local communities in extreme weather.

The council is holding an "Extreme events" conference in partnership with the Met Office on Tuesday, September 28. The conference from 9.30am-4pm at the Met Office in Fitzroy Road, Exeter, will enable agencies to discuss how to respond to severe winter weather.