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Rural road clearing volunteers have vital role to play if second wave hits, says Angus roads chief

Farmers step in each year to keep communities open.
Farmers step in each year to keep communities open.

A winter army of Angus road-clearing volunteers could be a lifeline force against a second wave of Covid-19, it has been claimed.

Locals who responded in their hundreds to a call for help when the pandemic broke have been told to “catch some breath” and prepare for the prospect of the virus returning.

The concern is that it may hit at a time when communities are battling to keep access routes to the most vulnerable residents open.

The warning followed a clash over a bid to reshape Angus Council’s winter roads regime in an attempt to make it more flexible to Covid-19 pressures which could isolate shops and chemists in outlying areas.

An attempt to defer the £2.6million spending plan was deemed not competent, but councillors were reminded how important rural volunteers could prove to be if bad weather hits.

Infrastructure chief Ian Cochrane said: “We are seeing traffic on A and B roads returning to a degree of normality, including bus services, HGVs and schools.

“It would be very difficult to stop a priority service somewhere to treat a lower class of road – we have no suggestion that roads are going to be under-utilised.”

Referring to volunteers, such as farmers who assist with rural road-clearing operations on an annual basis, he added: “We can never have enough self-help and are indebted to the groups who step forward, particularly during extreme situations like the so-called Beast from the East.”

Arbroath independent councillor Lois Speed said: “We have probably never been faced with the winter we do have ahead because of Covid-19.

“We can’t do this alone, we will need to look to our communities and they have shown how remarkable they can be.

“We all probably need to catch a breath in the next few weeks as we head into the winter months – we need to forge ahead and be in this together.”

Communities committee councillors heard last winter was one of the mildest in recent times. It had the lowest number of days with fresh lying snow in the past 15 years, and the seventh lowest number of priority carriageway routes given morning treatment.

 

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