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Gritting and snow clearance

Woodhenge Winter

Gritting and snow clearance

Wiltshire Council as the local highway authority are the lead party in dealing with winter maintenance within the county. This page which give information on the winter service and how Wiltshire Council deliver the service alongside partner agencies.

Wiltshire's weather can be unpredictable and the occurrence and severity of winter conditions varies considerably through the season and from year to year. Severe winter weather is most likely to be experienced in December, January and February but ice and snow can occur earlier or later. To take account of all possible winter weather the winter service period runs from mid-October to mid-April.

You can keep up to date with the winter service in Wiltshire by following our twitter feed @WiltshireWinter


  • Decisions are based on road temperatures, rather than air temperatures, and salting is likely whenever road temperatures are near freezing
  • Factors like moisture, heat retention and time of day or night will influence the decision
  • Treatment by salt is normally carried out after the evening peak traffic period or before the morning rush, this is because frost and ice do not normally affect road surfaces until late evening or early morning
  • Usually it takes two hours to complete a salting route
  • The key routes in Wiltshire total a length of 1160km (725miles) which is 25% of the entire maintained road network
  • Using our fleet of specialist vehicles, we provide a 24 hour response in bad weather
  • A single precautionary salting treatment will cost, on average, £17,000

With such a large road network, it would be unrealistic and uneconomic to attempt to treat all roads.

  • All key routes in Wiltshire will receive precautionary salting when ice is forecast. This will include all motorways, trunk roads, class A and B roads and the more important lower class roads
  • This should ensure the majority of road users live within a reasonable distance of a salted road. This network is under constant review and may be expanded during the current season
  • Please remember that the majority of minor roads will receive no treatment, and because arrangements may not always go according to plan, you should never assume a road has been salted
  • If temperatures are predicted to remain below freezing after the morning rush, then a larger network may be salted. This additional network includes mainly lower class roads serving housing estates and main accesses to villages and hamlets
  • During longer periods of cold weather, we may instruct salting to deal with persistent ice on minor roads which are not included within the precautionary or community networks, and invoke arrangements with town and parish councils to take action in their area
  • We maintain over 1600 salt bins located throughout the county.
  • They are available for both residents and the travelling public for use on public roads and footpaths
  • When using salt bins you should work on the basis that 1 table spoon of salt will cover around 1m²
  • You can report empty salt bins via the Mywiltshire online reporting
  • We do not place any new salt bins in Wiltshire. Town and Parish councils are able to purchase their own salt bins which become their own responsibility. We are able to help and advise any local councils who may to purchase their own salt bin.
  • In periods of prolonged snowfall, main snow clearing resources will be concentrated on priority routes until they have been opened sufficiently to maintain a reasonable traffic flow in both directions.
  • Other roads are then treated in accordance with local priorities and conditions
  • Ploughing will commence as soon as there is sufficient depth to plough and it is apparent that snowfall is continuing
  • If heavy or continuous falls are predicted a snow emergency will be called and the Emergency Control Centre established. In this event, the county's entire fleet of gritters will be mobilised and supplemented with the council's owned snow blades and blowers that are allocated to local farmers or contractors
  • Footways (to including pavements, cycle routes and cycleways) will only be treated in times of persistent ice or snow. When this occurs, salting and snow clearing will be confined to those footways where there is a high pedestrian usage
  • The time taken to clear footways will depend on the quantity of snow, the prevailing conditions and the available resources

Salt is spread on the highway to reduce the risk of ice forming. The spreading of the salt is however only the beginning of the process. Once the salt has been spread it needs to be trafficked by vehicles to ensure the rock salt works effectively.

During a snow event we will look to remove snow through ploughing when it has reached a required depth. This work is carried out alongside the spreading of rock salt which will also work to beginning melting the surrounding snow and ice. It is important that the snow and rock salt are trafficked by vehicles which will speed up this process and return the road back to its normal status as soon as possible.


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Last updated: 4 February 2019 | Last reviewed: 4 February 2019