ROADS in Middlewich and Moston are among the 247 that will be axed from the council’s gritting route from October.

Cheshire East Council’s cabinet signed off the authority’s new well-managed highway infrastructure on Tuesday, including changes to gritting routes resulting in four per cent fewer roads being treated.

Roads were given a risk assessment score, with those scoring less than 100 axed from the council’s gritting route – totalling 230km.

However, some roads scoring more than 100 have been added to the route that had previously been untreated by highways officers in cold weather – totalling 103km.

Cabinet was urged to reconsider the plans over concerns the public were not aware of the implications.

Cllr Rob Vernon, Labour, said: “I understand that as a council we are having one hand tied behind our backs by funding cuts from Government.

Winsford Guardian:

“But none of us – whether we are red, blue, yellow or no party at all – came into local politics to put the safety of children in our community at risk.”

Amanda Edwards is headteacher at Whirley Primary School, in Macclesfield.

She told cabinet: "I was only told about this last week – there has been absolutely no consultation with the school at all.

"Last year we had to close the school for two days because my staff couldn’t get to school, and that was with grit.”

CEC began work on its well-managed highway infrastructure back in 2018, with public consultation on the wider scheme taking place that summer.

Cllr Don Stockton, Conservative member for Lacey Green, was the cabinet member responsible for the policy before last May’s local elections.

He told cabinet that he was ‘amazed’ he had to question the policy – and was concerned at how the scoring system had worked, suggesting roads being removed from the gritting route in his ward are ‘heavily used’.

Cllr Stockton said: “When you were in opposition, I am sure you would have given me a really hard time if these proposals had been put by our group.

Winsford Guardian:

“We’re now in the position we’re you’ve gone through, you’ve done your matrix and you’ve got your numbers – and goodness knows how some of them come out at nought by the way, does that mean the road doesn’t get used at all, or no one is going to slip on it?”

Cllr Rachel Bailey, CEC’s Conservative leader at the time the work began, added: “It saddens me to hear parish councillors, residents and heads of school say, ‘why have we not been told here?’

“So I have to say, why is there a rush? Why can’t we pause?”

But independent Cllr Craig Browne, CEC’s deputy leader, confirmed that the policy had been considered by a council scrutiny committee on four occasions before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

And he insisted the council is following the standards being set by the Department for Transport (DfT), which provides funding to the authority based on whether it is following the code.

Cllr Browne said: “Leadership sometimes involves making difficult decisions and I don’t think there’s any doubt that that is what the proposal is.

Winsford Guardian:

“Over the last five years, the DfT has provided a grant to us of £12 million per year – £2 million of that is incentivised, based on us being able to demonstrate that we are complying with the criteria.

“A recent assessment by our strategic highways team has concluded that a figure of £17 million a year is needed just to maintain the network at its current level, otherwise all we are doing is managing decline.”

Cabinet members unanimously approved the policy, but Cllr Sam Corcoran, CEC’s Labour leader, raised concerns about the consultation that took place.

He added: “I think it has improved recently, but clearly we need to learn some more lessons from what happened in 2018, and I think we could review that consultation and learn lessons from it.”

READ > Council gets its finances back on track – but chiefs say the future is less certain

The well-managed highway infrastructure policy will also see CEC investigate potholes at a shallower depth than before – at 40mm rather than 50mm – while other road, footpath and cycleway defects will also be inspected earlier than before.

The Guardian has asked CEC to confirm a full list of the roads that will be affected.

Maps presented to cabinet on Tuesday appear to show the following roads cut from the gritting route in Middlewich and Moston:

  • Warmingham Lane (south of Cross Lane), Middlewich
  • St Ann’s Road, Middlewich
  • Sutton Lane (between St Ann’s Road and Lewin Street), Middlewich
  • Newton Heath, Middlewich
  • Hayhurst Avenue (between Sutton Lane and Long Lane), Middlewich
  • Forge Mill Lane, Moston
  • Dragons Lane, Moston