Ungritted roads left "like ice-rink" as snow and ice wreak havoc
TREACHEROUSLY icy road surfaces in Cheltenham have raised fears the town is being left behind in the county's ongoing gritting operation.
Dozens of residential streets and minor roads in the town were left out by the gritters during the weekend's snowfall, making them perilously difficult to pass for motorists and pedestrians.
Highways chiefs said they are doing their best to cope with the onslaught from the wintry conditions, with all major routes gritted. But, with the big freeze set to last all week, residents said the town's smaller roads needed urgent attention.
Kate Skelton, 30, from Montpellier, suffered a badly bruised coccyx when she slipped on ice while walking down Montpellier Street.
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"It was extremely dangerous," she said.
"There was nowhere to walk safely as there was hard ice on both the road and the pavement.
"It was really painful and I'm sure there will be some bruising as a result. It makes me think about how on earth elderly people can get around. It's just so uncertain underfoot, it's like walking on an ice rink.
"With the state of the roads as they are I'm sure a lot of people just want to stay at home."
Jo Bailey, chairwoman of Cheltenham Senior Citizens' Welfare Association, said ungritted roads on some of the town's estates were a hazard for the over-70s.
"Most of my members just won't go outside in these kind of conditions," she said. "It's not worth it. It's so difficult to walk without falling over and they would risk being in plaster for weeks – not to mention the shock.
"I know they grit the major routes but roads on Cheltenham's estates don't get the same attention.
"If you want to go out, those are the ones you have to get past first so it's not much good to most elderly people."
Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood said he was aware the town had been left behind other parts of Gloucestershire in the past – with gritting teams failing to prioritise its routes. However this time round, he said, he was keen to ensure it was not the case.
"This time I do think the county council seems to be doing a better job at keeping on top things," he said. "But it's important they continue to monitor the situation because our roads are some of the most heavily used in the county."
Gloucestershire County Council said Cheltenham was given exactly the same proportion of gritting resources as the rest of the county.
The authority said it is continuing to treat key routes and secondary roads with more snow expected today.
Ploughs are on standby to tackle snow and ice in rural areas and parish councils have been given access to grit bins to make minor routes passable for pedestrians.
John Kay, area highways manager, said: "We would still urge residents to take care when travelling, especially on higher ground.
"We are constantly being updated by the Met Office and are prepared to adapt our plans accordingly."
More snow flurries are expected today with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark. Several schools in the county will be closed, including Queen Margaret Primary School in Tewkesbury.
The cold snap looks set to stay throughout the week, with the mercury dropping to -5°C in parts of Gloucestershire by Thursday night.
Weather expert Ian Thomas said: "There may be some thawing during the week, but not much give.
"People should still expect snow and ice on the roads and pavements and take care when walking about.
"There is a hint of some milder weather for Saturday."