The Snow Code

Snow chaos review doesn't solve all winter's road woes

The AA has welcomed the Government's 'snow code'

22 October 2010

An official review of last winter's road disruption on UK roads is very welcome but problems still persist, says the AA. The 'Snow Code', spelling out where residents and businesses stand legally if they want to clear snow locally, is a great improvement.


Edmund King, AA president welcomed the new Snow Code saying; "Last year many shopkeepers and residents were genuinely concerned that if they cleared snow from pavements that they might be liable. As a result of this uncertainty and a lack of gritting, many pavements were treacherous.

"We hope that this new 'Snow Code' will reassure residents and shopkeepers. But it should not mean that, even in a 'Big Society', local councils end up relinquishing their responsibilities for gritting pavements and roads.

"On the wider question of winter resilience we still feel that there any many issues to be addressed urgently if we are to avoid another winter of snow chaos on our local roads."

Winter Resilience

The AA has flagged up the following concerns:

  • The UK salt supply system has been proved unfit for purpose (it cannot supply enough in a bad winter).
  • The last two winters have shown that there has been a degree of complacency and Britain was caught out – painfully so for many.
  • Business and households cannot afford a 'maybe third time lucky' approach.
  • Some highway authorities have played Russian Roulette with their preparedness plans in the last few years, leaving others to bail them out when the salt ran out.
  • Problems are compounded by highly unpredictable winter weather in the UK due to its mainly maritime climate. But when continental air comes and sticks we pay the price with severe winters.
  • Importing salt if there are problems this winter may pose a problem like last year when the whole of Northern Europe was seeking extra supply – there may be none which can be delivered quickly enough.
  • Although many highway authorities have heeded the warnings this year, it may still not be enough if we have another long hard winter. There is the added problem that the extra stocks required for the start of the season cannot be supplied by the UK salt supply system alone.
  • Whilst we welcome a new contingency reserve of 250,000 tonnes for the start of the winter 2010/2011 season, we are concerned that the proposed review at the end of December before deciding to order new imports may still lead to shortages should continuous treatment across the UK be required. Last winter the extra salt needed in January arrived too late.
  • Road users should not be placed at risk by 'watering down' salt spread rates to conserve stocks – how can drivers be expected to know where this practice is happening?
  • Even in a good winter some local authorities short change drivers because their salting networks are less comprehensive than others – a post code lottery has always existed whereby by good authorities see the road safety and business benefit of keeping the roads open.

Join the discussion in the AA zone

Snow Code


1 November 2010