The Ham & High published the below letter from me about Camden’s rank failure to grit the streets in the face of unanimous forecasts of snow: leading to gridlock on Hampstead High Street, Arkwright Road, and elsewhere.
Local residents were greeted last week by a winter wonderland, as snow finally fell across north London. While for Instagram or Twitter users, this makes for an idyllic streetscape, for drivers or bus riders, it meant an icy hellscape.
By 10am, several cars had become stuck on Hampstead High Street’s incline, blocking buses and reducing traffic to a crawl. Highgate Hill had to be closed altogether, as several residents were sent veering into bollards.
Why? Because Camden had not gritted even these major roads the night before.
Recognising this risk, Swiss Cottage’s Conservative councillor Don Williams asked at November’s meeting of Camden Council what provisions had been made for gritting our streets.
Councils can’t grit every road, but Camden’s Cabinet member pledged to ‘focus on priority routes’. According to pre-announced plans, this included Hampstead High Street, Highgate Hill, and Arkwright Road: all steep hills with heavy traffic.
Yet all of them were impassable. The chaos on Hampstead High Street had to be resolved by council workers arriving all too late. Arkwright Road was only resolved by residents getting the snow shovels out and clearing and gritting the road themselves.
On roads that Camden has surrendered to the snow, residents should be aware that they can do the same as those hardy heroes – there are grit bins across the borough and Camden gives out shovels free of charge.
But on major routes, which Camden’s administration had promised to clear, it shouldn’t be a DIY job or an SOS dispatch. Camden must be far better at ensuring streets are gritted properly before the chaos descends.