THE outstanding work of a community-based organisation in tackling last year’s deep freeze has been highlighted as a beacon in a national campaign.
The East Durham Trust-led Snow Squads project that helped protect the elderly and vulnerable during one of the worst winters on record has been rolled out nationally.
Last year’s project saw the recruitment and training of four teams of four volunteers to look out for isolated people.
The hardy volunteers were based in Blackhall, Thornley, Shotton Colliery and Murton.
During a three-month period, more than 300 hot meals were delivered to the homes of local residents having been prepared in community cafes.
Now one of the chosen villages, Blackhall, has featured prominently during the national Winter Relief Appeal, an extension of the good work being done in east Durham which is backed by famous faces including Terry Wogan and has featured on TV and radio.
Malcolm Fallow, chief executive of East Durham Trust, which is based in Yoden Road, in Peterlee, said: “We are delighted that the work we piloted last year has been held in sufficiently high regard as to be rolled out in this way.
“We look forward to being involved to the benefit of local people again this year.”
During last year’s project, Good Samaritans were provided with vital clothing and equipment as well as basic training in how to respond to individuals in crisis due to the problems created by snow and ice.
Part of the volunteers’ work was to meet regularly during the bad weather to plan local programmes of snow clearance and pavement treating as well as sharing local knowledge of who was likely to be isolated and vulnerable and how they could help.
As well as clearing snow, the help also ranged from simple contact with people over a cup of tea to ensuring vital supplies got through and trips to doctors or chemists were made.
l New arrangements to keep County Durham moving during winter weather are to be outlined this week.
Members of Durham County Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the winter maintenance plan, which sets out how the authority will tackle gritting, snow clearing and the management salt stocks during the coming winter.
Current salt stocks have been increased by 6,000 tonnes to 46,000 tonnes and there are 2,000 salt bins countywide with an additional 200 available if a request is made.
The number of farmer contractors has also been extended to 60 in total, an increase of 17 on last year and all of these contractors can deploy tractor trailers, tractor ploughs and loading shovels when the need arises.
The council will continue to treat – or pre-salt – 45 per cent of the highways network across the county, this is also used as the basis for snow clearance.
Bosses will aim to ensure links to industrial estates, most schools, main bus routes and key routes within housing estates are kept running.
The cabinet will be asked to approve the winter maintenance plan when they meet tomorrow.