Cabinet to consider closure of Bridgnorth and Hodnet highways depots
Shropshire Council’s Cabinet will next week [19 October 2022] be asked to approve the permanent closure of the council’s highways depots in Bridgnorth and Hodnet.
Operational activity was temporarily stopped at the two depots in May 2021, to review health and safety and environmental concerns, with some areas requiring urgent and substantial repair to bring them back into use.
In particular the operation of winter maintenance activities, especially from the Bridgnorth depot, was considered unsafe.
It was therefore agreed that the two depots should be temporarily closed and operational activities transferred to the council’s three other depots, in Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Whittington, by October 2021.
A performance review for the past 12 months has demonstrated that there has been no operational impact or drop-off in service following the closure of the Bridgnorth and Hodnet depots. And in addition to an increase in levels of reactive maintenance, response times have also improved significantly.
For example, since the closure of the Bridgnorth and Hodnet depots:
- Responses times to highway emergencies (1 hours ‘in hours’/1 hour 30 minutes ‘out of hours’) have continued to be delivered at 100%.
- The number of pothole repairs has considerably improved.
- Winter maintenance service levels have been maintained.
- During the floods of February 2022, 300 sandbags were deployed to Bridgnorth prior to the flooding, with an additional 300 deployed to key locations in the town to support residents.
The cost of bringing both depots up to operational standards to meet both current environmental and safety requirements is estimated to be between £2-3m.
Richard Marshall, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for highways, said
“To help us decide whether to invest in these two depots, or permanently close them, we’ve been monitoring and evaluating the performance of the highways team across the county for the past year to see whether there has been any drop-off in service compared to before the depots were closed.
“The result of this review is that there has been no impact on service delivery as a result of the interim closures.
“Indeed, since Bridgnorth and Hodnet depots were closed, we have seen significantly improved performance and efficiency in all of the main service areas delivered from our highways depots.
“There is therefore a very strong case for their permanent closure and it’s in fact typical of a council area of Shropshire’s size to be serviced by two to three highway depots.
“Some local councillors have voiced concerns regarding the closure but this is not backed up by performance measures which show improvements in all metrics.
“Some concerns were raised about lack of gritting activity in Bridgnorth last winter. These concerns were investigated we found there had been some misinterpretation regarding our winter maintenance policy and operational plan. The policy does not include the treatment of footways, other than during periods of prolonged sub-zero temperatures. There has been no change to the policy or level of service since 2018.”
The last 18 months has also seen the whole highways service being extensively reviewed and changes to the ways of working for both the council and Kier have shown significant improvements.
This process has also included improved utilisation of the operational depots and workforce to better deliver the contemporary needs of the highway services within Shropshire.
Closure of the Bridgnorth and Hodnet depots would reduce revenue costs to the highway service by approximately £50,000 per annum.
No jobs will be lost as a result of maintaining the current arrangements.
Performance data for financial year 2020/21 and 2021/22 highlight that operational efficiency has increased considerably in all operational zones across Shropshire.
Historically, there have been five operational depots in Shropshire. This reflects an historic need, with many similar size shire counties operating two or three operational depots to provide an equivalent highways service.