Winter service and gritting

Gritting routes, snow wardens, winter driving tips, apply for a salt bin, our Winter Service Policy and answers to frequently asked questions.

View the routes of council gritters

I can see clearly now … winter driving tips from IAM RoadSmart,  the UK’s largest road safety charity.

The charity has a mission to make better drivers and riders in order to improve road safety, inspire confidence and make driving and riding enjoyable. It does this through a range of courses for all road users, from online assessments through to the advanced driving and riding tests.

Inside job

Months of air conditioning and dust builds up a grimy layer on the inside of the windscreen, so spend a couple of minutes getting it really clean. Use a window cleaning fluid, newspaper or a microfibre cloth. A squeaky clean surface will eliminate glare from the low autumn sun and greatly reduce the likelihood of the screen misting up.

Carefully clean the rear screen so that you don’t damage the heater elements and you’ll save having to put the heated rear window on so much, which can cost two or three mpg while it’s on, says Tim Shallcross, IAM RoadSmart head of technical policy.


If you get that horrible squeaking noise, it’s time to change the wiper blades. When the new blades sweep the screen in efficient, rain clearing silence, you’ll be grateful you did. On icy days always check that your wipers are not frozen to the glass. Attempting to get them moving can blow a fuse or damage the motors, just adding to your woes. The same problem can sometimes affect electric wing mirrors. If really low temperatures are forecast don’t fold them in the night before.

Washer bottle

Ready-mixed washer fluid can be an expensive convenience; it’s typically £5 or so for five litres – more at motorway service areas – and most of it is just tap water. Many supermarkets sell concentrated fluid which will dilute to make at least 20 litres for less cost, even more when the weather’s mild and there’s no risk of the washers freezing.

Alternatively shop online, but don’t be tempted by hi-tech sounding premium priced products or the very expensive “specially developed for X make of car.” On cold days, don’t use the washers until you feel warm air coming out of the heater, otherwise the spray may freeze on your windscreen leaving you driving blind.

Frost and ice

Many cars now have heated windscreens and don’t the rest of us envy them on frosty mornings! If there’s no magic windscreen defrost switch in your car, buy a custom made ice blanket or just cover the screen the night before with a sheet. Do not use newspapers for this as they tend to disintegrate into a soggy mush. Invest in a good quality ice scraper and a few tins of de-icing spray and, most importantly give yourself that extra ten minutes to get the car ready to go. Clear the whole screen, not just a letter box area in front of the driver. A badly cleared screen is dangerous and is an offence. Three points and a hefty fine can be the reward for skimping.

While you scrape and spray you can have the engine running with the heater set to maximum demist. But cars are at their most polluting and wasteful when cold, so you won’t be doing the environment or your wallet any good. As soon as the windows are clear, drive off. It is illegal to leave a car running unattended as well as being a huge temptation for the casual thief. Most insurance companies may not pay out if you make it easy for someone to steal your vehicle.


Clear damp or snowy boots and coats out of the car when you get home – if you leave them in overnight the water will evaporate and condense on the inside of all the windows. It’ll take ages to clear and the car will feel damp and miserable for your morning commute. Even leaving them in the boot will make the windows wet and foggy, so get them indoors where they’ll dry out properly.

Winter Service Policy

The council has a Winter Service Policy [PDF, 1Mb] so we can respond efficiently and effectively to winter weather. Recent severe winters have meant greater investment in equipment to deal with heavy snow and very low temperatures. The policy is updated each year to improve the service and keep the roads as safe as possible for all road users.

For the winter service to be effective, the over all winter period is defined as 1 October to 30 April with the core period being 1 November to 15 April, when the worst winter weather is expected. Differing levels of staffing and standby are provided during these periods.

1. Information and advice about winter service

North Lincolnshire Council has a highway winter service plan to help maintain safe driving conditions during periods of extreme weather.

The plan includes salting a network of roads when widespread frost is forecast. This network is sometimes changed in response to various factors such as altered bus routes.

Please note: The Highways Agency is responsible for salting and snow clearance on motorways and trunk roads (M180, M181, A180 etc) in North Lincolnshire.

2. How do gritters spread the salt?

Rock salt is spread out of the back of gritters by a spinning device.

The rate and speed of spreading is controlled by an electronic system in the gritter’s cab. Drivers are trained to use the system to adjust the width and angles of spreading depending on the conditions and type of road. A gritter will have its beacons flashing when it is spreading salt.

If you find yourself behind a gritter please keep well back, be patient and do not overtake unless necessary and safe to do so.

3. Why does North Lincolnshire Council salt the roads?

We salt the roads to assist the safe movement of traffic during winter conditions. However it is not possible to provide this service on all parts of the road network or to guarantee that surfaces are kept free of ice and snow at all times, even on the treated part of the network.

4. How much salt does the council store?

The salt stock at the beginning of the winter season is around 6,000 tonnes, which is enough for our average winter. We have contracts with Cleveland Potash and Salt Union to replenish our salt stocks during the winter season.

If the weather is so bad that we need to salt the roads around the clock (four times in twenty-four hours) then keeping the salt stock at these levels will allow us to salt at this rate for around 16 days. The Department for Transport recommends that councils have enough salt for six days continuous salting.

Although we are prepared to deal with severe weather conditions we do rely on deliveries to keep stocks high. If supplies are reduced by circumstances beyond our control, gritting routes may be reduced on rare occasions to cover only the primary routes.

5. When will you start salting the roads?

Our team is on standby from the start of November to the last week in March.

6. Why are the roads not salted when I can see there has been a frost on my car?

We usually salt the roads when the road surface temperatures are at, or forecast to go, below freezing (0˚C). Roads retain heat and do not cool as quickly, so frost on the car can be misleading.

7. How do I know which roads will be salted?

See our Gritting routes for roads that are treated in North Lincolnshire.

8. What do you use to salt?

We usually use rock salt, which is mined. This looks red / orange in colour due to dirt and natural impurities in the salt.

9. How do you salt?

To be most effective salt should be spread on to the road surface before the road becomes icy or snow starts to fall. This is known as precautionary salting.

It takes the gritters around three hours to salt the main salting routes, so we aim for them to set off before freezing or snowy weather is due to arrive. This is often in the early evening or early morning so you may not see them working.

To work properly the salt needs to dissolve on the road surface so it may not look obvious that salting has taken place.

10. What happens when it snows?

We apply more salt to slow the rate of snow settling and prevent compacted snow forming ice. However, if snow does settle salt will have less effect and in deeper snow will have virtually no effect. We then need to use a snow plough as well as salt to clear the roads.

11. What causes delays or problems for gritting?

Gritters are large vehicles, difficult to reverse and the drivers work alone, often in very poor weather. Parked cars and those stuck in snow can make some roads difficult to drive or even impassable.

If salting has to take place during peak traffic periods this can slow things down particularly if gritters become stuck in traffic.

12. Can I clear the path/road in front of my property and what if someone has an accident?

Advice on this issue recently issued by the Department for Transport:

When clearing snow and ice take care not to make things worse by using water or other liquids that could refreeze.

13. Can I ask for a road to be salted?

Once the priority routes are clear, during prolonged bad weather we will try to move onto non-priority routes if we are able. Requests to salt a road would be looked at only at this stage.

At the end of winter we analyse salting requests when agreeing routes for the following year. However, North Lincolnshire currently treats 45 per cent of the road network against an Audit Commission recommendation of around 25per cent – well above the UK average. As such it is difficult to add extra lengths as we are already stretched during severe conditions.

14. Can I call into a Council depot to collect salt?

No, we cannot supply salt to people visiting council depots. You can buy salt from most DIY stores or use sharp sand to help with grip if you can’t get hold of salt.

15. Why don’t you use an alternative to salt, like the airports do to clean runways?

Other chemicals such as de-icers are available but can cost up to 20 times more than salt and are not always effective.

16. Why is my cul-de-sac not salted regularly?

Salting routes are carefully designed to cover the main, primary routes. These include bus routes and those that carry a lot of traffic. We cover as much of the network as possible within our resources, targeting those areas of greatest need. Cul-de-sacs do not carry through traffic and there would be problems for gritters with parked cars and reversing out.

17. What if I need medical assistance and can’t get out of my house due to bad weather?

If we receive a request from the ambulance service or police for emergency assistance this will be passed to our teams who will assist as soon as practicable

18. Why do we only salt footways in the pedestrianised areas?

Footway salting is labour intensive and takes a long time so little work could be carried out before short term ice and snow melts naturally. With over one thousand miles of footways in North Lincolnshire salting them all is not feasible so our efforts are concentrated in areas that will benefit the most people.

Only footways in main shopping areas and routes to town centre car parks are salted. We will try to reactively salt other footways only when there is persistent snow or ice.

19. Can I have a salt bin for my street?

Each request for a salt bin is assessed and will only be provided if justified against criteria. It is important that we provide new bins to areas that will most benefit the surrounding location such as:

• Sharp bends
• Steep gradients
• Potentially dangerous road junctions
• Exposed locations

Salt from salt bins is for the roads and should not be used on private paths or drives.

20. If I spread salt from a salt bin, am I liable if someone has an accident?

Salt bins are a ‘self-help’ facility and placed in locations where road users are likely to have difficulties. Local residents and passing motorists can spread salt on the carriageway or footway in the locality of the bins.

The salt is replenished by the council but spreading by residents and others is at their own risk.


Our team is on standby from the start of November to the last week of March. Using information about the weather and road conditions from a number of sources (the METEOGROUP, road sensors and visual inspections of road conditions) our highways engineers will decide whether to take action and salt.

Once gritting is required it is undertaken in a planned way, with priority given to major and important routes first (Precautionary routes), with other roads being treated after that (Secondary routes).

Types of gritting/salting routes

When the roads need salting/gritting routes are prioritised using the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance Management,  Well Maintained Highways , issued by the UK Roads Liaison Group (COP)

Precautionary salting routes

These are based on the amount of traffic that uses the route and a number of other factors that road users thought were important for the salting network:

  • principal and main roads (those carrying at least 3000 vehicles per day)
  • important bus routes
  • routes to hospitals
  • roads leading to ambulance stations, fire stations and police stations
  • bus routes adjacent to or serving schools
  • selected hills

The council aims to treat all precautionary salting routes in North Lincolnshire within three hours of the gritters being mobilised.

There are currently nine precautionary salting routes. Details of the precautionary salting routes can be found on our interactive  gritting routes map

Alternatively, you can download a copy of our Precautionary Salting Routes [PDF, 2Mb]

Secondary salting groups

In addition to the precautionary salting route there is a network of secondary routes that will be treated when all precautionary routes have been treated. However these will only be treated if:

  • air temperatures remain below zero degrees centigrade for more than 24 hours continuously and/or
  • there is a clearly identified problem caused by snow or ice on the highway

Secondary routes meet the following criteria:

  • a route on a relatively steep hill
  • a route, which for a significant length, is next to a deep drainage ditch, river or similar
  • local bus routes not included elsewhere
  • pedestrianised area of Brigg and Scunthorpe, Frodingham footbridge and Ashby Broadway
  • additional routes that provide links for gritting vehicles
  • main routes next to schools (that can be accessed by a gritting vehicle)
  • main industrial estates

Details of the secondary salting routes can be found on our interactive  gritting routes map

Alternatively, you can download a copy of our  Secondary Salting Routes [PDF, 3Mb]

Reduced precautionary salting network at times of salt shortage

During recent winters prolonged periods of cold weather across many parts of the country has resulted in a shortage of rock salt.

Whilst there are national strategic stockpiles of salt, there may be times when salt use has to be reduced to preserve stocks. In this case there is a reduced precautionary network, which includes priority 1 routes in snow and ice conditions, routes to key infrastructure and selected routes with particular access difficulties.

Details of the reduced precautionary salting network can be found on the interactive gritting routes map.

Following a lot of support from local parishes North Lincolnshire Council (NLC) launched the parish snow warden scheme.

They provide a vital point of contact in many rural areas during periods of severe winter weather.

Parish snow wardens have the direct contact details for the lead snow wardens, who work and liaise directly with the council’s winter control team to provide more effective road and footpath clearance.

If requested by parish/town councils we will provide extra salt bins, which can be put where they feel would be best (subject to risk assessment). This will help the parish decide their own priorities for snow and ice clearance.

We will supply each parish with at least one bin (maximum of three) and at least two tonnes of salt – subject to suitable locations.

Snow wardens need to lead locally on snow and ice clearance in severe weather conditions and develop priorities, along with their town/parish council, for their towns and villages.

Lead snow wardens

During severe weather lead snow wardens will:

  • Communicate and liaise with the our winter control team
  • Gather information from parish snow wardens on the local situation
  • Liaise with the winter control team on using local contractors/farmers and the local parish budget.

North Lincolnshire Council has identified lead snow wardens, who will provide the link between the local areas and the council’s winter control team.

The lead snow wardens will be the lead ward members:

  • Axholme North – Cllr John Briggs
  • Axholme Central – Cllr Tim Mitchell ( Belton)/Cllr David Robinson ( Epworth)
  • Axholme South – Cllr Judy Kennedy
  • Burton and Winterton – Cllr Elaine Marper
  • Burringham and Gunness – Cllr Josh Walshe
  • Broughton and Scawby – Cllr Janet Lee
  • Ridge – Cllr Trevor Foster/ Cllr David Garritt
  • Brigg and Wolds – Cllr Nigel Sherwood
  • Barton – Cllr Paul Vickers
  • Ferry – Cllr Richard Hannigan
  • Messingham ward – Cllr Neil Poole

Parish and town snow wardens

Each town and parish council has a named snow warden. They liaise with the lead snow wardens directly, not with the NLC winter control team.

During severe weather parish snow wardens will:

  • pass information to the lead snow warden on the local situation
  • liaise with the lead snow warden on using local contractors/farmers
  • contact approved local contractors/farmers and ask them to carry out clearance work subject to North Lincolnshire Council’s winter policy document
  • supervise local salting and snow and ice clearance based on the parish or town priorities
  • provide information to the lead snow warden on the work of local contractors/farmers and inform our winter control team on the state of roads and paths in their parish.
  • assist with the development of a community emergency plan for severe snow and ice conditions
  • arrange the restocking of the parish salt bins and any necessary repairs/maintenance to the bins.
  • coordinate the work of any additional council work force deployed in the town or parish for snow and ice clearance (i.e. direct operatives to priority areas for snow and ice clearance).

North Lincolnshire, along with many other authorities across the UK has introduced a snow warden scheme. It will be evaluated after each winter so the scheme, guidance and documentation can be improved where necessary.

MeteoGroup provides a weather forecasting service to North Lincolnshire Council. This service gives daily information and advice on weather and road surface conditions. We use the information to help make decisions on the timing of salting or other treatment to the area’s roads.

Weather stations at Elsham Wold and Neap House provide up-to-date information on road surface conditions.

The weather station service is provided by Vaisala Ltd. The council uses the data, as well as liaising with neighbouring authorities and agencies, to provide a consistent response to the weather conditions.

The Met Office’s Snow Code is a guide to help you act in a neighbourly way by safely clearing snow and ice from pavements and public spaces.

Will I be held liable if someone falls on a path you have cleared?

There is no law preventing you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your property, pathways to your property or public spaces.

It is very unlikely that you would face any legal liability, 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. People using areas affected by snow and ice also have responsibility to be careful themselves.

What can I do to help clear snow and ice from pavements and public spaces?

Practical advice from highway engineers includes:

  • Start early: it is much easier to remove fresh, loose snow compared to compacted ice that has been compressed by people walking on it.
  • Do not use hot water. This will melt the snow, but may replace it with black ice, increasing the risk of injury.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Why is the Government publishing this information?

During the severe winter in 2009/10, many people across the country worked very hard to keep our transport network open. This included many members of the public who cleared pavements and public spaces around their homes. Some people, however, were deterred from taking action to clear pavements and other public spaces because they feared that they might be sued.

An independent review of the transport sector’s response to severe weather of 2009/10 was carried out. It recommended that the Department for Transport should publish a note on good practice for members of the public in clearing snow and ice from footways and other public spaces.

The Local Government Association also published a report on behalf of councils, which reached the same conclusion.

The Government is committed, as part of the Big Society agenda, to remove the barriers that may unnecessarily prevent people from helping themselves and those around them.

Salt heaps or yellow salt bins provide the public with a “self help” facility for the road at specific locations.

The bins are restocked as necessary throughout the winter.

Requests for salt bins or heaps are assessed using the following criteria:

  • presence of hazards such as a hill, bend, problem junction, speed limit
  • the proposed bin or heap is not already on a precautionary salting route
  • other factors such as bus routes, local factors and availability of resources to spread the salt
  • suitability of the site for a salt bin
  • likely environmental impact
  • restrictions on overall cost

You can use our online form to apply for a salt bin or heap.

Often salt bins become the focus of vandalism or the meeting place for young people. If this becomes a nuisance, you can request that the bin is removed. Other residents in the area must agree before the facility is withdrawn.