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Review into salt treatment on roads after spate of animal deaths is rejected

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Salt on the roads can attract the Forest's free-roaming animals
Salt on the roads can attract the Forest's free-roaming animals

CIVIC chiefs have rejected a call to review treating icy roads with salt after a councillor suggested it could have contributed to recent animal crash deaths.

Cllr David Harrison said Hampshire County Council chiefs should “look at the wisdom” of treating local roads with salt – noting that doing so draws animals to them.

“I have written to bosses at Hampshire County Council asking them to review the wisdom of salting the roads because we know that animals are drawn to them,” the Liberal Democrat member said. “Perhaps there is a ‘grit only’ alternative.”

Cllr David Harrison
Cllr David Harrison

But questioned on Cllr Harrison’s suggestions, HCC deputy leader Cllr Rob Humby, said salting would continue as the authority needed to protect motorists.

“I fully recognise the uniqueness of the New Forest environment, and particularly with free roaming animals, but at the same time it is important to appreciate the county council has a duty of care – and in fact a statutory duty – to take reasonable steps to keep the roads clear of snow and ice, and to ensure road users remain safe,” he said.

As revealed in the A&T, 10 animals have been killed on the district’s roads since Christmas Day, including five ponies, four sheep and a cow.

Cllr Humby, also HCC’s cabinet member for economy, transport and the environment, added he was “sorry” to hear of those incidents.

“During the winter months I am aware that some New Forest Commoners put out an increased number of salt-lick blocks to encourage the animals to stay away from the road salt,” he added.

“However, animals may well still be drawn to the road as somewhere dry to lay – especially when the forest floor is very wet – and for any heat retention benefit from the tarmac during cold weather. New Forest animals can wander on to the road as they wish.

Cllr Rob Humby
Cllr Rob Humby

“As suchI would remind those who do need to make essential journeys at this time to drive carefully through the New Forest, adhere to the speed limits at all times, check the weather forecast before setting out and drive according to the conditions.”

He stressed that HCC “worked closely” with various Forest agencies to “make sure our frontline highway activities respect and preserve the character of the New Forest”.

Cllr Humby said during the winter period HCC highways teams will primarily focus on keeping main ‘Priority One’ roads – such as A and B routes and routes to hospitals and Covid-19 testing centres – safe. They will also treat ‘Priority two’ routes that include B roads and village accesses.

“The clear advice from government at the moment is to stay at home and only go out if absolutely necessary. With less traffic on our roads de-icing salt may be less effective so the risk of icy surfaces remains,” Cllr Humby said.

The suggestions by Cllr Harrison were made in his online blog. He called animal deaths “one of the most highly charged, emotive subjects” but added solutions were not easy.

Practical problems stopped speed humps and more lighting, while roadside fencing would ruin the open nature and character of the local area. Speed limits could be reduced to 30mph, but the difficulty was enforcing those rules, Cllr Harrison added.

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