Legal stand-off means Leighton Buzzard gritting dilemma is still not resolved

The issue was raised last winter too about icy pavement responsibilities

Monday, 6th December 2021, 11:32 am

A legal stand-off over the safety of town centre gritting risks leaving pedestrians in the Leighton Buzzard area in danger of slipping in icy conditions.

Enquiries are continuing to enable local councillors and Leighton-Linslade Town Council's office staff to tackle the issue and not be left out in the cold, a meeting heard.

Grit can be supplied by Central Bedfordshire Council, but usually it would be spread at different locations by a team of local volunteers or appropriate town council staff.

Councillors Harvey (left) and Morris (right) spread the grit on the High Street with volunteers in February 2021

The process happens throughout the district, a full CBC meeting was told by Conservative Arlesey councillor Ian Dalgarno last week.

He was responding to an open question from Independent Linslade councillor Victoria Harvey.

"Unlike the town councils in Biggleswade and Dunstable, some of the Conservative councillors, representing CBC and LLTC, voted to support a policy not to grit pavements and highways in the town centre in icy weather," she explained.

"That's because they've received legal advice the town council will be operating beyond its powers in gritting land not in its ownership. This position was endorsed by the town council's insurer. This is a significant difference of view on the legal situation from CBC and other town councils.

"It leaves Leighton-Linslade councillors having to choose between leaving their residents in danger of falling over on icy pavements as they access town centre services or, if they help with the gritting, being at risk of legal action.

"Despite many emails, this has still not been resolved. Are you able and willing to ask for clarity from CBC's insurers and pathfinder legal services as a matter of urgency on this issue?" she asked.

Councillor Dalgarno replied: "I don't want to get at odds between CBC's legal advice and that given by the town council's insurers.

"But we as a local authority provide grit to many councils across Central Bedfordshire, covering towns and parishes. Many of them, with volunteers and staff, grit on areas around old people's homes, town centres, footpaths and outside GP surgeries and pharmacies."

There was an icy blast about gritting from councillor Harvey in February when she led a team of volunteers and other local councillors in gritting some parts of Leighton Buzzard. She described the situation then as “awful that the pavements were left unsafe” because they were slippery.

“CBC brought half a tonne of grit and town councillor Tony Morris, myself, Ian Dillamore, Chris Stevenson and several other local residents gritted the High Street, as we didn’t want people falling over," she said at the time. "This was one-off group action because nothing was happening.”

She vowed to work with fellow CBC councillors Brian Spurr and Gordon Perham, as well as Cllr Morris, to come up with a future solution.

A situation exists at the moment, Councillor Dalgarno, who's the executive member for community services, acknowledged.

"Our advice to town and parish councils is at odds with what Leighton-Linslade Town Council has and that's down to its insurers to decide," he added.

"I have asked the monitoring officer, as our legal representative, to provide some advice on this and we'll get it to you as quickly as we can."

Councillor Harvey pleaded: "I just need the urgency, as the weather's getting colder."

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