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Winter Snow Advice for North Yorkshire

Winter Snow Advice for North Yorkshire

Published by the Yorkshire Coast Radio News Team at 7:47am 5th November 2010.

Householders who act in a public-spirited way to keep the paths and pavements outside their homes clear in severe weather are being given reassurance about their legal liabilities.

Last winter - in the most severe weather in years - many people were reluctant to clear snow and ice because they feared they could become liable for any injuries suffered by pedestrians outside their homes.

North Yorkshire County Council has since been pressing ministers to provide clear guidance on the issue … guidance which has now been forthcoming from the Department for Transport.

"We have been lobbying for some time for this," said County Councillor Gareth Dadd, Executive Member for Highways.

"We wrote to Ministers and to local MPs, with the result that one of our MPs tabled a parliamentary question on the issue.  It is extremely gratifying that we have now had this response … particularly since it has been published before the threat of severe weather is upon us."

The County Council is now forwarding the Department's advice to parish councils across North Yorkshire.

"Last winter we found that some people were discouraged from clearing snow and ice from pavements because of the fear that they may be exposed to legal action if someone fell on the area they had cleared," said David Bowe, Corporate Director of Business and Environmental Services, in a letter to every parish in the county.

"The County Council has been trying to allay this fear.  It is intended that this (the guidance) will empower those who wish to act in a neighbourly way."

The guidance points out that there is no law preventing people from clearing snow and ice from the pavement outside their properties, and it is very unlikely that they would face a legal challenge resulting from an accident "as long as you are careful, and use common sense to ensure that you do not make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before."

The guidance suggests:

o    Start early: it is much easier to remove fresh, loose snow compared to compacted ice that has been compressed by people walking on it.

o    Do not use hot water.  This will melt the snow, but may replace it with black ice, increasing the risk of injury.

o    Be a good neighbour: some people may be unable to clear snow and ice on paths leading to their property or indeed the footway fronting their property. Snowfall and cold weather pose particular difficulties for them gaining access to and from their property or walking to the shops.

o    If shovelling snow, consider where you are going to put it, so that it does not block people's paths, or block drainage channels. This could shift the problem elsewhere.

o    Make a pathway down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then you can shovel the snow from the centre to the sides.

o    Spreading some salt on the area you have cleared will help to prevent any ice forming. Table salt or dishwasher salt will work, but avoid spreading on plants or grass as they may be damaged by it. A few grams (a tablespoon) for each square metre you clear should work. The salt found in salting bins will be needed for keeping roads clear.

Particular care and attention should be given to steps and steep gradients to ensure snow and ice is removed. You might need to apply additional salt to these areas.

o    Use the sun to your advantage. Removing the top layer of snow will allow the sun to melt any ice beneath; however you will need to cover any ice with salt to stop it refreezing overnight.

o    If there is no salt available, then a little sand or ash is a reasonable substitute. It will not have the same de-icing properties as salt but should offer grip under foot.

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