COMMUNITIES are set to be left out in the cold this winter if council plans to cut roads out of the gritting network get the go-ahead.

Somerset County Council is proposing to cut precautionary gritting routes – where roads are gritted in advance of wintry weather – from 23 to 16 as it strives to save £15million by 2020.

If the changes are approved by the council’s cabinet on September 12, many roads across Somerset will be deleted from the programme.

The council admits young people getting to school, pregnant women and the elderly are all likely to be particularly affected by the changes.

Villages set to be cut off have branded the plans ‘horrendous’ and a ‘significant’ safety issue.

Chairman of Buckland St Mary Parish Council, Steve Albon, said: “We’ve got a school and a bus route that goes through the village.

“We were disappointed last year that the gritters only came down one road through the village.

“We’ve also got a bus for Holyrood that comes through.

“It’s going to have a terrible effect if we have a cold winter.

“We aren’t happy about it, and have let Amanda Broom know this. It’s a significant safety issue.”

Nick Loxton, chairman of The Seavingtons Parish Council, said: “If it goes ahead it is going to cut us off.

“Everytime the A303 is closed all the traffic comes through Seavington. People still use it because it used to be the A303, 40 tonne juggernaut’s pass through.

“It’s already horrendous if there’s an accident, but adding the ingredients of ice and snow won’t help.

“Obviously we have local people needing to use the road, too. There are people that work for county services, like midwives and nurses.

“It’s going to have an ongoing effect, and I’m very cross about it.”

The council has said that it will continue to grit key strategic and county routes – such as the A30, A38, A39 and A358 – as well as key freight routes and links to emergency stations.

However, it is proposing to no longer grit roads to settlements which are 500 feet or more above sea level, roads which lead into adjoining counties, and school links between urban and rural areas.

Around £1.4million in savings is set to come from the council’s highways budgets.

This includes reducing the road safety budget, funding for maintenance of drains and gullies, and terminating hedge cutting.