Shake-up for salt supplies as city seeks storage sites

CITY chiefs are on the hunt for more facilities to store salt in order to help protect the Capital from another severe winter.

TRUE GRIT: The salt store at the Bankhead road services depot was under pressure last winter. Picture: JANE BARLOW

The city council wants to more than double the amount of salt it has in storage to help clear more roads and pavements if Edinburgh suffers a third successive big freeze.

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Although the city never ran out of salt in either year, stockpiling more is expected to mean that it can be used to tackle much more than just the top priority busy main roads.

It is hoped that an extra 8000 tonnes can be found before the end of this year.

Many residents in the higher parts of the city complained last winter about their roads and pavements being largely ignored during the height of the bad weather.

Stockpiling extra salt will come at a cost, estimated to be around 200,000, but the move has been welcomed by opposition councillors who say it will be money well spent.

Mark Turley, director of the city council's servces for communities department, said: "We are looking at finding new facilities (for storage].

"We have set a target of trying to achieve 15,000 tonnes so we'll probably look at three. There are two challenges; one is to find the site and the other is to find the salt but that is the target we have set ourselves."

The city council was criticised last winter for only increasing its salt stocks by 37 per cent, from 5215 tonnes to 7215 tonnes, at a time when other authorities were nearly doubling supplies to cope with the predicted bad winter.

Potential new sites are being analysed and recommendations are expected to be made to councillors by August.

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Council chiefs are also drawing up more localised "priority locations" during or after heavy snowfall, such as walking routes to shops, bus stops, health facilities and schools. They have also identified 253 sites for "strategic" grit dumps across the city.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environmental leader, said: "Over the last two winters we have seen an increase in demand for gritting, especially for the treatment of roads and busy local areas. It makes good economic sense to have sufficient salt in stock, so we don't have to rely on strategic stock supplies.

"We are also aiming to increase our salt levels so we can be prepared for the next bout of severe winter weather and keep the city moving."

In the winter of 2010/11, 16,000 tonnes of salt was used in Edinburgh. But salt bought during bad weather tends to cost up to three times the amount it does in advance of winter - meaning it is much cheaper to build up larger reserves.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: "Over the last two winters, I do not think that Edinburgh ran out of salt but it did come pretty close and it would only be prudent to radically increase supplies.

"If this requires more money, it requires more money and it could pay real dividends locally because we need to be prepared."