Applications are now being taken for Aberdeenshire’s volunteer snow warden scheme, aimed at supporting and assisting communities and individuals to increase their resilience to winter weather.
Although recent years have been variable in terms of snowfall, last year was particularly notable for the ice which formed where snow couldn’t be cleared quickly enough from surfaces.
Many communities, such as those within the Cairngorms National Park, are well prepared for winter, getting regular snow, but others can be caught by surprise.
Establishing a volunteer snow warden scheme in a community with direct support from the council is one way to increase resilience to winter events, expected or not.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Head of Roads, Philip McKay, said
It seems fairly obvious to point out the sheer physical size of our area, perhaps not so much the substantial areas of road and pavement surfaces which stretch to about 3370 miles in length, 10.3% of the non-trunk road network in Scotland.
Despite their experience and dedication our teams cannot keep all surfaces clear at all times when snow is falling with the resources available.
One way to increase the resource available is to equip and train volunteers in local areas who can see the value and sense in being part of keeping their community moving.
Many people will remember a time when getting involved in local snow clearing wasn’t that rare an occurrence and people now have even higher expectations about their ability to travel in bad weather.
New information and training packs have been produced for communities and individuals interested in getting involved, and the council will supply protective and snow clearing equipment.
Volunteers would operate independently of council teams, targeting public footways and paths only. They can decide on the extent of the area to be cleared with the resources available and legal guidance clarifies responsibility if someone falls on a path or pavement cleared by volunteers – if it’s done in line with guidance, the responsibility lies with the pedestrian.
Any snow clearing from public and private carriageways and private footpaths would be at the volunteers’ own risk.
Basic training will have to be undertaken by all volunteers before they can participate in the scheme, including how to avoid injury and best practice for snow clearing.
Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Peter Argyle, said
We know some people will react by saying ‘we pay our council tax and shouldn’t have to do this’, but the fact is the council cannot keep all roads and pavements clear at all times during winter events.
There is a great deal of community spirit in Aberdeenshire, little changed from the days when people quite naturally went and cleared communal areas and footpaths
The need to do this has not changed, and we hope we can actively support members of local communities who are able to spare some time during significant snowfalls.
Let’s not also forget the importance of local knowledge as well as community spirit – communities know where the problem areas are, which roads and paths can be problematic in icy conditions and which areas are important to their fellow residents.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer snow warden or in setting up a scheme in your local community, please see the following information in the first instance https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/roads/maintenance/winter-maintenance/#selfhelp