By John Kirkbride
A hilltop community in Highmoor is steeling itself for a rough ride this winter after learning that Oldham Council’s wittily named fleet of grit lorries will not be visiting there.
Residents have already experienced difficulties following the closure of Thurston Clough Road for essential bridge repairs at Thurston Clough Cottage, which are due to commence in the spring.
The road provided access from the top of Doctor Lane through to Delph village, and some residents on both sides of the closure have been forced to take alternative routes to reach their homes.
Then in a recent letter to residents Oldham Council announced that because of the road closure it will be suspending gritting services on the Highmoor side of the bridge for the duration of the winter.
The letter stated: “The Council incurred significant additional costs last winter due to the gritting team having to deploy much smaller vehicles and the fact that gritting was taking longer to complete on Thurston Clough Road.
“Consequently, the Council has now made the decision to temporarily suspend gritting along Thurston Clough Road from Doctor Lane to the bridge; the suspension is for this winter only.”
Some grit bins were already in place, and additional ones have now been provided at “strategic locations” along the route.
Kim Whittaker lives on one of the steepest parts of the road near to the bridge closure, and along with many other residents is highly unimpressed by the council’s decision.
She told the Saddleworth Independent: “My issues are the amount we pay in council tax and the fact that we can’t temporarily suspend payment, as is the case with gritting.
“There is also the severity of the ice on the road due to the poor drainage, and along with the road closure this means vehicles are coming down and getting stuck, turning in our driveways and gates and damaging walls and cars.
“Then the fact that if the road is bad the farmers will not deliver hay or animal food, and bin collections have been missed when the road is icy.”
Carol and Andrew Oldham live on Mason’s Row at Highmoor, and in an ironic twist, their son Frederic named one of Oldham Council’s gritters.
Carol said: “My concerns are that there are quite a number of disabled and older people on Thurston Clough Road who are putting themselves at real physical risk trying to grit.
“The council have given residents nothing but grit bins, they have not provided any other assistance, for example the mini gritters that some areas use.”
Carol also alluded to the numerous unoccupied stretches of Thurston Clough Road which won’t get gritted, voicing her concern about the effect this could have on access for emergency services.
Councillor Ateeque Ur-Rehman, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, told the Saddleworth Independent: “As is the norm across the country our priority is to keep the main network gritted and open so it can be used by emergency vehicles, even in periods of heavy snow.
“Thurston Clough Road is currently closed due to essential works which means our gritters cannot fully access it. This is why it has been temporarily removed from the primary gritting routes.
“Secondary routes and those which do not give full end to end access to our gritters are routinely not gritted. We rely on residents to do their bit and help look after their own communities by using the grit we store in the yellow bins at key points.”
A small Christmas consolation was that Huddersfield Road (A62) and Gatehead Road at Delph, which were closed due to vital drainage work, were temporarily reopened from December 20 to January 2 “to make it easier for locals to get about over the festive period”.