Session 2010-11
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Written evidence from Phillip Bratby (AWC 02)


1. The Transport Committee welcomes written evidence from those affected by the adverse weather conditions. I and my neighbours have been severely affected by adverse winter conditions for the last three years.

2. I live in a remote rural area which receives minimal support in adverse winter weather conditions. The only support received this winter is two bags of salt left by the local council for use by residents to cover over 1 mile of single-track lane. Beyond the lane in both directions is at least one further mile of lanes before roads are reached which may have some form of treatment.

3. In each of the last three winters I have been unable to use my car for at least a week. This winter I have so far been cut-off for periods of 4 days and 12 days. Neighbouring farmers use a JCB and tractors to clear the lane, but, due to the gradient, compacted snow and ice prevent use by cars. One neighbour has had to throw milk away because milk tankers have been unable to get through and he is now giving up dairy farming. I have to maintain a sizeable food stock and have on occasions walked a 3-mile round trip to the village community shop, only to find they have had no fresh food deliveries. This winter, the two periods of snow were such that my rubbish was not collected for 6 weeks.

4. Essentially, the local council leaves local residents to fend for themselves in times of severe winter weather.

5. It is the county council’s policy to build and maintain roads assuming an ever warmer and wetter climate. For example, thinner layers are used in road construction and use is made of road marking materials to cope with warmer weather1. We have not experienced such warmer weather, rather we have experienced record low temperatures and considerable snow falls. It would appear that the council is relying on flawed computer models to prepare for winter rather than using experience and historical data concerning winter weather.

6. As a result of flawed council policy, we are seeing more pot holes, of considerable size and depth, which make driving more dangerous.

7. In its submission to the Winter Resilience Review 2010, the county council states "Short term forecasting is generally very good and has improved significantly over recent years. Medium term forecasts are useful in general planning and trends but not good for weather on specific days. Long range forecasting is still in its infancy and of very little use to winter planning as it currently stands, and no weighting was given to the long range forecast received". Despite this belief in the accuracy of short term forecasting, the county council still regularly gets caught out by severe weather. Without a definition of what "medium" and "long range" constitute, it is difficult to comment on what these mean. Despite the Met Office being unable to predict the weather beyond about 5 days and thus having given up seasonal forecasting, the county council is currently partnering with the Met Office to pursue forecast developments.

8. It has been speculated that the Met Office computer model contains a warming bias, which explains why it consistently forecasts a milder than average winter2. The Met Office appears to be concerned with global climate at the expense of UK weather/climate. Examination of the Central England Temperature (CET) record3 shows the cyclical nature of the English temperature record over the last 238 years, the rapid fall in temperature over the last three years and the fall in the 10-year running mean temperature. The CET record demonstrates the folly of ignoring the lessons from history and assuming ever warmer winters.

09. There are independent forecasters whose livelihood depends on the accuracy of their medium and long range forecasts. It is obvious that independent forecasts should be pursued, rather than placing reliance on the Met Office, with its flawed computer model. The Met Office has singularly failed to provide accurate seasonal forecasts.

10. The effects of failure to prepare for severe winter weather has been profound, in terms of economic impact, the UK’s reputation and, not least, in human suffering. Rather than placing undue emphasis on hypothetical sea level rise, warming and flooding, action should be based on historical evidence of actual winter conditions. A cost/benefit analysis would show that a moderately small investment in winter resilience would pay enormous dividends.

January 2011

[1] A Warm Response Our Climate Change Challenge. A Devon County Council Strategy for 2005. . . and the foreseeable future