THE recent snowfall saw 24 council-owned gritters clear routes through our highways, but now Wiltshire Council risks sanctions from the Environment Agency over the way it stores salt.

Wiltshire Council-run depots which store salt to grit roads are at a “significant risk of service failure” according to the Environment Agency.

Now £1.4m will be spent, on top of £4.75m already earmarked for improving depots across the county, to improve standards and a full review is due in the next six months.

Cabinet member for finance Cllr Phillip Whitehead described the delay in publishing a full review into its six depots as a “failure” by the council and promised it by October.

Speaking during Tuesday morning’s cabinet meeting in County Hall, Trowbridge, he said: “It is coincidence we had the snowiest weekend of the year and then a depot strategy comes to cabinet that includes some of our salt depots. There is nothing operationally problematic with our salt depots, everything is still operational, we’ve still got lots of salt. This is part of a longer term development.“We have got to do some interim work on the depots which will form part of the strategy and this paper provides £1.4m of capital spend to meet those requirements.I do not want to delay it any longer because we need to meet our own standards. We need to spend some of this money to make the depots more efficient and safe.In Semington the site is not undercover and we need to do something to prevent leaching to surrounding soils of the salt.” In the last two years £230k has been spent on improvements to salt depots. Leader of Wiltshire Council Baroness Jane Scott said an overhaul must take place to avoid more cash being spent on failing depots.Cllr Scott said: “I am bothered about this phased approach because what had been expected was a complete review not just for the next five years but 25 years. I would urge the team to look at it holistically. If we don’t we will still need continual bits of investment. We’ve got to be brave on this one.”

Work will include improving compliance, capacity, and staff working conditions, after Improvement Notices were issued by the Environment Agency. If even one depot was closed because of the EA ruling the council’s winter maintenance gritting service would fail in its statutory duty under the Highways Act 1980. The report states: “The council is at risk of sanctions by the Environment Agency at sites due to non-compliance relating to contaminates associated with open storage of salt. Improvement notices have been issued by the EA and an amount of mitigating works have been undertaken, however, these sites remain a cause for concern."

“Should a closure be enforced the council’s winter maintenance (gritting) service would fail in its statutory duty under the Highways Act 1980.

“Action is required in the remaining salt stores to improve compliance, capacity and staff working conditions.”