MORE than 33,500 tonnes of grit has been stockpiled as highways chiefs prepare for another ‘big freeze’ this winter.

Lancashire County Council said the amount, the largest ever stockpiled by the authority, will enable them to go for long periods of sustained freezing weather if stocks run low at suppliers.

It dwarfs the 18,000 tonnes of four years ago, and is up from 30,000 tonnes last year.

The grit is 97 per cent rock salt, with a molasses-type additive making up the remainder.

Duncan Reeve, project realm manager in Burnley, said he hoped residents and businesses would shoulder some of the responsibility for keeping the roads safe.

There are 49 gritting wagons poised to take to the streets, with a 16-strong reserve fleet providing back-up. A team of farmers and agricultural contractors have agreed to help in the most remote locations.

Mr Reeve said he wanted people to use the grit in 1,800 bins across the county to make their roads safe, but he urged residents not to ‘misuse’ the provisions.

He said: “We will use however much is needed, but it’s all down to self-help and people helping their neighbours. We are working with district and parish councils, emergency services and companies to promote the idea of self-help.

"If the bad weather was to come next week we would be prepared.”

Meanwhile, residents in Blackburn and Darwen will grit their neighbourhoods, clear snow and keep an eye out for neighbours under a new council-led initiative.

Winter Squads have been launched by Blackburn with Darwen Council, with bags of grit handed out to those taking part.

The scheme is another part of the council’s Your Call, where residents help their communities to carry out tasks that otherwise wouldn’t get done because of a shortage of funds due to council cuts.

Coun Faryad Hussain, executive member for environmental improvement and sustainability, said: “There are about 300 people who die every year from winter-related deaths such as falls on icy surfaces.

“These winter squads allow volunteers to come together over the winter, share their community spirit and hopefully achieve a drop in the amount of unnecessary winter deaths.”

The idea came at a ward solution meeting in the East Rural ward, which covers Hoddlesden, Eccleshill and Blacksnape, where residents asked for support to help vulnerable residents in the case of a cold snap.

Three squads were set up and the scheme was piloted in East Rural, Corporation Park and Roe Lee wards.

This year, there will be 12 groups on hand to grit routes that would otherwise not be gritted, clear snow and ice and look after vulnerable people in their area.

The council will provide six tonnes of grit per area, snow shovels, spades, crampons, warm high-visibility hooded jackets and buckets.