Our winter gritting crews are on standby for ice and snow from November to March. Daily forecasts from the Met Office and local knowledge help us decide when to grit roads and pavements. Where possible we pre-grit the main routes before ice forms or snow falls in a decided priority order across the borough.

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. When do we grit?

Gritting is likely when road temperatures are at or below 0 degree centigrade and moisture is present or likely to be present to form ice.

We often wake up to a severe frost, scrape ice off our car but are surprised to find that the roads have not been gritted. This is because the decision to grit is based on road temperature rather than air temperature. Roads keep heat and do not cool down as quickly as objects such as cars so although there might be frost on our cars, gritting may not be necessary.

It is not simple to decide whether or not to grit. For example, if heavy rainfall is predicted at below -1 degree centigrade, pre-gritting a road before it rains would be a waste as the grit would be washed away.

The coldest time is usually in the early hours of the morning so most gritting takes place in the evening after the rush hour and before the ice starts to form. However, weather conditions vary and we grit when we can best prevent the formation of ice. When we have to grit during rush hour the task can take much longer and we try to avoid this where possible.

2. Which roads are gritted?

Transport for London is responsible for many of the major roads and footpaths in Lambeth (marked in red on the maps below). These include most of the main shopping areas.

We have asked Transport for London to give the highest priority to footways in these areas and to the tube and rail stations while also keeping the roads open. We are responsible for the other roads and footpaths.

We are unable to grit all roads due to the restrictions of cost and time. These are our priorities for gritting:

  • Priority 1 – all main (non trunk) roads. See map of priority 1 roads
  • Priority 2 – roads that access essential public services such as hospitals, fire stations and ambulance stations plus at least one access route from the main road network to every community. See map or priority 2 roads
  • Priority 3 – all other roads that are not covered by Transport for London. These would only be gritted if priority 1 and 2 have been gritted and if a large amount of grit stock is still available. See map of priority 3 roads
  • Priority Zero – roads that are at risk of ice formation even when the temperature is zero degrees. They won't always be gritted every time the temperature hits zero degrees, for example if the road has been gritted earlier in the week

Priority Zero map A Priority Zero map B Priority Zero map C

3. Which footways are gritted and cleared of snow?

If you live on a main road or within a town centre then we will probably clear the snow from your footpath. If you are outside the town centre and are not at one of the priority locations such as a school it is unlikely that your footpath will be cleared.

Footways are also gritted and cleared of snow by priority.

The priorities are:

  • police, fire, ambulance, train and bus depots
  • shopping areas and areas with a heavy footfall
  • schools
  • steep hills
  • the entrances to sheltered housing.

See a map showing priority footways

Gritting and clearing snow from footways mainly done by hand. It can take a long time to get through the five priority areas, but our teams will make every effort to ensure that footways are as safe as possible.

Footways in the priority areas are normally cleared of snow or gritted between 6am and 2pm. We clear sufficient space so that users of wheelchairs, pushchairs and prams can use the pavements.

4. Clearing ice and snow outside your own home

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

In the case of an accident you are unlikely to be sued if you have acted carefully and sensibly. When we use areas affected by snow and ice we all have a responsibility to be careful.

Here are some tips for clearing ice and snow:

  • Start early as it is easier to clear fresh, loose snow and more difficult to clear compacted ice
  • Do not block paths or drainage channels with the newly shoveled snow
  • Do not use hot water - this will melt the snow and may replace it with black ice
  • Remove the top layer of snow so that the sun melts the ice underneath, but cover up any remaining ice with salt so that it does not refreeze overnight
  • Spread table salt or dishwasher salt on to the cleared area to stop ice but avoid spreading salt on to plants or grass
  • If you do not have salt use sand or ash. If you need to, use grit from our grit bins. If you do use the grit, please remember that it is a hazardous substance and you will be using it at your own risk and you should keep the grit away from your skin and eyes

5. Longer periods of bad weather

In 2008/09 London experienced the worst winter in 20 years and in 2009/10 it was the worst in 30 years.

If the UK experiences another severe winter in 2014/15 and the national stock of grit is at risk of running out the Department for Transport will take control of all stocks held by authorities and county councils. The Department for Transport will then distribute it where the need is greatest.

We can't predict how bad the winter of 2014/15 will be, but Lambeth and all other London councils have been working together with Transport for London and the Department for Transport to keep London safe and moving through winter.

To reduce the risk of grit stocks running out across London we have organised:

  • Salt stockpile – Transport for London has ordered 25,000 tonnes of grit as backup for London. To give you an idea of the quantity, our Milkwood Road depot holds up to 1600 tonnes of grit and to cover our priority 1 routes we use about 19 tonnes of grit
  • Resilience routes (roads) – If the London grit supply is at risk, as it was in 2009/10, all boroughs will be asked to switch to their resilience routes which are 50 per cent shorter than our standard priority 1 and 2 routes. As those routes start to operate grit will be allocated to boroughs according to need
  • Resilience routes (footway) – Footway priorities 1 to 3 will be gritted depending on stock levels. If there isn't enough grit, teams will be instructed to switch from gritting to clearing snow by shovel

6. Volunteer snow wardens

Snow wardens logo We are looking for volunteers to become Snow Wardens to clear ice and snow from pavements and help keep your streets safe.

You can volunteer individually, or as part of a group. All snow wardens receive full training and all of the equipment needed to safely clear local streets.

Last winter we recruited an army of 250 volunteers and they turned out in force during the short period of cold weather in early February. The scheme was a big success and attracted many positive comments from residents and pedestrians throughout the borough.

To sign up or find out more about becoming a Snow Warden email snowwardens@lambeth.gov.uk or telephone 020 7926 0524.