Dozens fall on Banbury town centre '˜ice rink'
A number of people slipped on the ice and it has since emerged that no-one appears to be responsible for gritting the surface.
As temperatures plummeted last Thursday, the pedestrianised areas around Burger King, the Whistling Kettle and the area at the end of Butchers Row saw upwards of 22 people, some elderly, take heavy falls on the untreated surface.
Conditions in the market square were exacerbated by virtue of the fact that not one footpath or pedestrianised area had been pre-treated with grit.
Town councillor Surinder Dhesi, who works in Castle Quay said: “I was very concerned that the pedestrian area and the footpaths in the town centre were not gritted especially when it was forecast the weather was going to be frosty and icy.”
However the various local authorities tried to remain at arms length regarding any gritting responsibilities.
Cllr Dhesi said: “Two ladies slipped before 8.30am on Thursday and I phoned Cherwell District Council and explained my concern about the state of footpaths and black ice in the pedestrian area and was told to phone the county council because it was their responsibility and they replied it was the district council’s responsibility.
“I phoned the town council and they said they only do some small areas but are not obliged to do so.”
Natasha Eva, who is a regular at the Whistling Kettle cafe and had a ringside seat as the conditions took their toll, said: “My friend rang the council but didn’t get really a decent response and I see they still haven’t gritted it this morning.”
She added: “There was no end of people going over. It was really, really bad.”
At 9am on the following day (Friday), despite similar weather conditions and calls to all three authorities alerting them to the dangers of the untreated market place the previous day no grit had been put down.
Oxfordshire County Council, which according to the Highway Act of 1980 is responsible for the gritting of highways, including footpaths, said in a statement: “The county council does not pre-treat footways or pedestrian areas. We offer assistance to town councils with materials for self-help to treat locally on pavements but there has been limited take-up on the offer.
“If we receive reports of icy conditions we can arrange for salting to be carried out.”
Yvonne Heath, who herself was lucky not to fall but witnessed many others do so, said: “It really shook me up. I was shaking, I had to sit down quiet for a little while. It really unnerved me.”
The Whistling Kettle became a temporary focal point for some of those who had fallen, with one elderly gentleman offered a cup of tea and some comfort after falling and hurting his arm.
This is not the first time that the town’s streets have become an ice rink. During the winter of 2009/2010, similar conditions saw the Horton A &E department full to capacity with those who had fallen resulting in fractured bones.