Rosie Cooper MP

Working hard for the people of West Lancashire

09/02/09 Gritting Problems in West Lancashire

Good Samaritans are being warned that they could fall foul of compensation claims if they volunteer to grit icy roads or footpaths left untreated by councils.

The warning comes as an MP demanded an urgent review of snow-shifting and gritting policies following the chaos triggered by the biggest snowfall for years.

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper says that snow and ice could become a more common peril as a result of the effects of climate change.

Labour MP Miss Cooper is calling on councils to examine their duty under the Highways Act 1980, as amended by the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003.

The Act requires highways authorities to ensure, 'so far as is reasonably practicable' that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.

And she is concerned that councils are cutting the number of gritted roads while at the same time grit bins are being removed or left unused for fear of compensation claims.

Miss Cooper said: "For decades councils have provided grit bins on side roads for the use of motorists and householders."

"They have mainly been placed where there is a steep gradient or a sharp bend so that public-spirited people can use them to help reduce the hazard from slipping."

"But now it seems that there is concern that members of the public gritting side roads footpaths could fall foul of a compensation claim since they could be held responsible for failing to grit the road adequately."

"The reasoning behind it is the same as with clearing the snow from a footpath in front of your house."

"If you leave the snow untouched, there can be no come-back if someone slips and is injured. The responsibility to take care is theirs alone."

"But if you clear it and leave a patch of snow, or uncover ice which you do not remove, then your action makes you liable for any injuries caused by your 'inadequate' snow clearance."

"If the same applies to gritting the road or footpath, then a motorist or pedestrian having an accident could claim against a person failing to grit the road sufficiently so as to prevent them having the accident."

"This is a cause for concern since it appears that the number of minor roads being gritted by county highways authorities are subject to reduction.

"That is what we have found with Lancashire County Council and it is not on its own"

"Government needs to review the rules around gritting to force councils in light of climate change to be more proactive in light the weather conditions."

"There needs to be clarification of whether Good Samaritans are at risk of being sued and tighter regulation of the requirements on councils to keep people safe with official gritting."

"If council's can't use common sense to protect people they will have to be regulated to do so."

Michael Corrigan, Senior Partner of Farleys Solicitors, in Blackburn, Lancs, warned members of the public to leave gritting to the council for the time being.

Mr Corrigan said: "Members of the public should be extremely careful if they are planning to grit icy roads."

"It's a shame that someone acting out of goodwill could fall victim to a compensation claim."

"They might have good intentions but by gritting a road they could lull people into a false sense of security."

"If the job isn't done properly and someone gets injured, then ultimately they would be liable to a claim for damages."

"Of course if a council has been warned of potential danger hotspots and not acted then maybe they would be liable to a claim themselves."

"A review of policies on the matter would be a good idea to make people more aware of what they can and cannot do."

"The best thing to do in the current climate would be to inform the council of any danger spots before taking matters into your own hands."

"At least then you are not putting yourself in danger of a claim."

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