Snow plan


Whilst there is an Emergency Plan which covers the overall response to a major incident, and an Adverse Weather Plan which details how the Council is alerted to Severe Weather events, it is necessary to produce a Snow Plan to include details and actions for the Council services that are specific to a snowfall event.

This plan should not be considered in isolation as it is part of a number of integrated plans within Reading Borough Council.

The other plans that integrate with this snow plan include:

  • Reading Borough Council Emergency Plan
  • Reading Borough Council Adverse Weather Plan
  • Reading Borough Council Winter Service Plan
  • Reading Borough Council Flood Response Plan
  • Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum Recovery Plan
  • Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum Human Assistance Strategy

During the winter months there are a number of different types of weather which can cause disruption, these include snow, blizzards, fog, ice, frost, freezing rain and hail. The met office criteria for the NSWWS winter weather alerts are listed below.

Heavy snow

Snow falling at a rate of 2cm/hour or more expected for at least two hours

Very heavy snow

Snow falling at a rate of 2 cm/hour or more expected for at least two hours, accumulating to 15 cm or more.


Moderate or heavy snow accompanied by winds of 30 m.p.h. or more, with visibility reduced to 200 m or less; or drifting snow giving rise to similar conditions.

Severe blizzard

Heavy Snow accompanied by winds of 30 m.p.h. or more, reducing visibility to near zero.


Visibility below 50 metres (restricted to heights where major roads occur).

Widespread icy roads, glazed frost, freezing rain

When rain falls onto surfaces with temperatures at or below zero; or condensation occurs on surfaces at or below zero; or already wet surfaces fall to or below zero. The ice is usually clear and difficult to distinguish from a wet surface. It usually forms in sheets.
Warnings are issued when any depth of ice is expected over a widespread area.

The effects of winter weather

Health of vulnerable people         Communities and vulnerable people isolated by heavy snow falls   Vulnerable people who cannot attend their usual facility such as a day centre now need alternative arrangements   Increased number of injuries cause by slips and falls on icy or snowy surfaces.   Vulnerability to hypothermia, increased risk of colds and flu   Likelihood of school closures caused by access, staff and safety problems   Increase in death rates caused by a period of extreme cold – sudden deaths at home means an increased need for post mortems, body storage capacity issues and a backlog in funeral services. Identification and safe guarding of vulnerable people, including care homes and schools   Reporting and communication of school/other facility closures   Prioritising of school routes for examinations   Access to vulnerable for necessary care e.g. social care   Refer to the mass fatalities plan if local mortuary capacity is exceeded
Increased need for public information Increase in public calls to RBC for situation update and resource requirements     Staffing levels for calls   Provide relevant information to call takers
Occupational health / office working   Transport difficulties mean staff are unable get to work   School closures mean staff are unable to go to work due to childcare problems   Staff working outside or travelling as part of their role   Dangerous driving conditions for staff   Increased numbers of staff accessing IT from home Safety of staff who need to travel – identification of key services, alternative transport methods and point at which it becomes unsafe to drive   Advice on ‘essential travel’ – should staff be encouraged not to travel to work?   Advice to staff working outside and who travel as part of their role   Consider what support can be provided to staff that may be unable to get home   Business continuity – staff shortages, critical service identification
Business Continuity Will restrict or prevent certain RBC activities. Refer to Business Continuity priority services list
Transport Issues Many driving routes become impassable and other areas become congested   Increased road traffic accidents   Snow, ice on pavements lead to difficult and treacherous walking conditions   Road closures needed in areas   Transport route problems lead to shortages in supplies such as milk, bread and fuel which may lead to panic buying   Visibility issues with heavy snowfall create difficulties with responding to incidents on the public highway. Difficult to assess the scale of weather incident if hampered by poor visibility Implementation of the Highways winter maintenance plan to grit priority roads   Identification of critical services  (Business Continuity list)   Information to the public on available routes/safety messages   Consider routes taken by those accessing the vulnerable i.e. social care, meals on wheels   Provisions to public stranded in vehicles such as water and healthcare   Promotion to parishes on self help during winter months, drivers on emergency kits   Economic / commercial disruptions   Priority of distribution centres, provision of basic supplies to the vulnerable   Signing and maintaining of temporary road closures
Provision of salt and grit Pavements and cycle paths are not gritted which may lead to a number of injuries from public slipping on snow and ice   Possibility of salt/grit rationing which means less roads are treated and therefore more communities may become cut off   Implementation of a national salt cell – The Salt Cell will be chaired by the Department of Transport. The aim is to identify and ensure best use of the UK salt supplies and to work with the EU and other partners to maximise supplies.   Identification of priority pavement areas   Promotion of self help to local communities to clear their own key areas   Salt / grit pre planning, resilience stores, mutual aid agreements between other Local authorities.   Pre season situation report to Resilience and Emergency Division South (REDS) on salt levels. Information to the Salt Cell if in operation (this may be through direct entry to a computer system).
Problems with utilities Power loss results in a loss of heating – particularly a problem for vulnerable people   Snow on telephone lines or tree damage can cause loss of phone lines, this can include damage to mobile phone masts Identification of key services/assets at risk   Long term power loss causing evacuations   Communication without landlines   Activation of Business Continuity plans
Agricultural issues Trapped farm animals such as cattle   Involvement with DEFRA and animal charities i.e. RSPCA
Building damage Burst water pipes causing flooding damage to buildings   School and other facility closures due to damage Temporary accommodation may be needed   Reporting and communication of school/other facility closures
Refuse Rubbish collections may become impossible in isolated areas due to access or changes to service priorities   Can rubbish collection be maintained? Can the staff be reassigned to snow clearance or priority identified pavement gritting? How do we inform public on changes to services?
Surface water flooding Caused by melting snow/ice in addition to heavy rain RBC Flood Plan

Gritting and grit management

RBC holds a sufficient supply of salt and grit in accordance with its Winter Service Plan. The Winter Service Plan is prepared and managed by the Council’s Streetcare Services Team. A joint weather forecasting arrangement is in place with Wokingham Borough Council and contractor Volker Highways. RBC has a winter gritting contractor J H Cresswell and Sons Ltd. Precautionary salting of the Primary and Secondary network and snow clearance will be carried out based on information received from the weather forecasting service. The Secondary salting network will only be salted and/or cleared of snow during particularly severe and prolonged hazardous winter weather conditions.

A winter service standby function is provided for 26 weeks, starting on 1st October to 31st March. This period may be extended to the end of April if unfavourable conditions persist.

The Primary precautionary salting network is approximately 118.8 km in length, represents approximately 30% of the total road network and comprises principal roads, including the main bus routes and the routes to the Royal Berkshire Hospital on the Primary precautionary salting network.

The Secondary precautionary salting network is approximately 42.02 km, represents approximately 11% of the total road network and is comprised of the remaining bus route network and roads linking strategic routes.

There are currently 47 grit/salt bins provided at locations throughout the Borough for public use. The grit/salt bins are maintained by the Contractor and are detailed in Appendix G of the RBC Winter Service Plan.

Winter gritting map 2020 – 2021

Snow clearance priorities for footways and cycle paths

  • The Council does not precautionary salt any of its footway network, however if snow is predicted to lay for a prolonged period then the town centre area, as detailed in Appendix E of the Winter Service Plan 2020–2021 will be treated with a proprietary material/grit/salt to prevent snow and ice forming. The footways listed in Appendix E are treated with a proprietary material/grit/salt as they have a high pedestrian footfall.
  • The decision to treat the footways listed in Appendix E is taken by the Council’s Streetcare Services. This work is also directly carried out by Streetcare Services.
  • Streetcare Services usually require approximately 3 hours notice to prepare the equipment, product and staff for the works. Once the spreading of a proprietary material/grit/salt has started it takes approximately 1.5 hours to cover the route.
  • The Council has two hand operated snow ploughs which will be deployed on town centre footways, over Reading and Caversham Bridges and over the Christchurch Footbridge, in the event of heavy accumulations of snow. On completion of these locations a decision will be made on cascading down to other high footfall areas based on a dynamic risk assessment reflecting conditions prevailing at the time.
  • The Council also has two hand operated grit/salt spreaders and one towable mini grit/salt spreader, which will be deployed when the snow plan in activated on the priority basis listed in Section 4.
  • Cyclists can continue to cycle in winter but are advised to dress appropriately, use mudguards and lights, consider tyres (the wider the better) and commuting by bike can be comfortable and efficient. It is important to make a safety assessment particularly during periods of prolonged hazardous conditions, (refer to Council’s Snow Plan). The Council does not precautionary grit / salt shared footways and remote cycleways when frost, ice or prolonged hazardous conditions are forecast, with the exception of shared carriageway / cycleway routes on the primary and secondary salting network. Being part of the carriageway, shared carriageway/cycleway routes on the primary and secondary precautionary salting route networks will be salted by default in accordance with the Winter Service Plan.
  • Should individuals make the decision to cycle during hazardous winter conditions the Council recommend that they take the necessary precautionary measures for the prevailing conditions.

Redeployment of staff

Upon activation of the Snow Plan, consideration should be made to redeploy staff unable to carry out their normal duties due to the adverse weather conditions. These staff in addition to any others available should be deployed to manually clear priority areas of snow to enable the local communities to carry on with the minimum of disruption. Additional personnel could be made available via local community groups or the Thames Valley Probation Service.
Contact details are 0118 956 0466

Local community groups can be contacted via the Emergency Planning Officers contact list.

Pavement/footpaths areas that could be cleared of snow as a priority have been considered and the following generic categories were used to generate the specific list of areas further below

a) Access to hospitals
b) Access to public transport
c) Continuation of burials/cremations
d) Very high footfall routes
e) Access to local amenities
f) Access to schools

A list of priority footpaths are listed below:

1) Town Centre Priority route and Perimeter of Royal Berkshire Hospital
2) Access routes to University walk-in Covid-19 test facility
3) Town Centre Bus Stops
4) Access area to Reading Train Station
5) Caversham Bridge
6) Reading Bridge
7) Caversham Crematorium (covered by a Business Continuity Plan but may need additional resources)
8) Christchurch Footbridge
9) Queens Walk
10) Tilehurst Shopping Precinct*
11) Southcote Shopping Precinct*
12) Whitley Shopping Area*
13) Meadway Shopping Precinct*
14) Caversham Park Precinct*
15) Dee Road Precinct*
16) Access to Schools in the Borough
17) Footpath on Castle Hill (1 side only)

* Priority order to be arranged at the time of the snowfall event.

For information on how to access additional resources see additional resources in this plan.

Information on litigation concerns

There have been cases of concern amongst the public about the possibility of litigation action from clearing snow away from paths – specifically in terms of being sued if someone slips on an area they have cleared. In light of this the government has issued self help advice which can be found at
The guidance includes the following statement:

Will I be held liable if someone falls on a path I have cleared?
There is no law preventing you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement outside your property, pathways to your property or public spaces.

It is very unlikely that you would face any legal liability, as long as you are careful, and use common sense to ensure that you do not make the pavement or pathway clearly more dangerous than before. People using areas affected by snow and ice also have responsibility to be careful themselves.

Alerts and activation


Alert – Notice of winter weather comes via the National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) from the Met Office. Internally dissemination of these warnings is managed by the Emergency Planning Unit.

Warnings are received by email, text and telephone calls:

The warnings are disseminated in line with the Adverse Weather Plan (see that plan for details of who the notifications are sent to and how)

Using the information within the severe weather warnings, service managers are able to take individual action to prepare their service for winter weather.

Specific actions related to each level or alert or warning are documented within the Adverse Weather Plan.

Activation route 1 Under normal circumstances, no staff are available to clear snow from pavements as they will all be undertaking their normal daily duties.

The logical trigger point for starting to clear the Footways and Cycle Paths Snow Clearance Priorities – pavements/footways is when staff from Parks, Streetcare and Waste Operations are unable to carry out their normal duties because of the snowfall (i.e. Unable to collect litter due to snowfall covering it, and parks unable to cut grass due to snowfall). At this stage the staff that are unable to undertake their normal duties will be redeployed to clear pavements set out in the snow clearance priorities section of this document.

Service managers for those redeployed services should contact the Emergency Planning Unit who will assign priority areas to the managers. It is the responsibility of the Emergency Planning Unit to coordinate the efforts of the Council in clearing the “Footways and Cycle Paths Snow Clearance Priorities” and this will be done via the Councils Emergency Operations Centre. The service managers will be responsible for deploying the staff to locations provided by Emergency Planning.

The establishment of a Severe Weather Management Team is likely at this stage and can be called by any of the directors, nominated Heads of Service or the Emergency Planning Officer.

Activation route 2 – Senior Management may decide to redeploy staff that are unable to undertake normal duties and redeploy them to clear pavements set out in the snow clearance priorities section of this document. This decision is likely to require Director level agreement and extraordinary circumstances.

The establishment of a Severe Weather Management Team is likely at this stage and can be called by any of the Directors, nominated Assistant Directors or the Emergency Planning Officer.

Both of the above activation routes can be complimented by voluntary sector support to clear snow.


Our response to weather warnings for snow is shown below.

AlertConsiderations for emergency planningResult
Green No action No action
Yellow:   Monitor weather   2. EPO to consider disseminating advice to stakeholders   3. Consider adding information to website Continue to monitor the weather   Advise or/and stand-by  
Amber: As above +   4. Dial into multiagency (Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum) Teleconference   5. Monitor and ensure any internal and external comms. reflect media messages   6. Multi agency discussion and coordinated action to be considered.   6. RBC EPU to liaise with RBC Highways to consider response activities   Continue to monitor the weather   Advise / stand by / Activate Plan      
Red: As above +   7.  Urgent message to all staff to prepare as appropriate + reference Business Continuity Plans   8.  Consider withholding all council 4×4 vehicles for use in emergency response Activate Plan immediately if not already activated

Management of 4×4 resources

On activation of this part of the plan the following will take place:

  1. All available Council 4×4 vehicles will be withheld from normal duties following agreement with service managers, availability confirmed and deployed in priority areas (contact fleet management to assist in this process)
  2. Volunteer 4×4 response groups will be activated & availability confirmed
  3. Agency 4×4 response groups will be activated & availability confirmed
  4. Volunteer Staff 4×4 owners will be contacted to support other options

The Council has a small number of 4-wheel drive vehicles which can used to support this response. Contact fleet management for latest list of vehicles

The Emergency Planning Unit has a list of local & national 4×4 response groups, including contact numbers and activation passwords.

A list of RBC employees that have 4×4 vehicles with the correct insurances in place is held in the Emergency Operations Centre.

Teleconference details

It may be necessary to call a teleconference due to an alert being received out of hours or due to the geographical locations of the stakeholders. Below are the details of the Emergency Planning Unit teleconferencing facility.

Teleconference dial in Information:

  • All attendees to dial 0118 9374477
    • Leader – 0125295
    • Participant -0135268
  • You will be asked to say your name (this enables you to be introduced to all other callers)

Additional resources

The RBC Emergency Planning Unit has access to additional resources that may be useful in prolonged times of cold weather.

These include, but are not limited to:

  • Blankets
  • Survival Blankets
  • Shovels
  • Additional Heating
  • Communications
  • Procurement/Provision of PPE
Last updated on 19/07/2021