Drivers have received a welcome boost ahead of winter after a new gritting station was officially opened.

A new salt barn serving the district has been built along Fenn Road in Halstead at the cost of £20,000.

Essex County Council says the new station, which can hold up to 500 tonnes of salt, will help save gritter drivers both time and petrol.

Drivers have previously needed to to collect salt from Ardleigh, near Colchester, some 18 miles away from Halstead.

County hall has also announced it will be taking a more "sophisticated" approach to the icy conditions by using locally-based weather forecasts to decide when to grit roads around the county.

The new system could see less roads gritted, but Essex County Council's infrastructure boss Kevin Bentley says this will prevent salt being wasted.

He said: "It is easy to decide to grit all the main roads when the temperature is very cold, but that can also lead to a waste of valuable gritting resources if we end up gritting roads when we don’t actually need to in certain locations.

"It is a balance. We don’t want to leave our winter road network slippery, nor do we want to waste tonnes of salt if they’re not actually going to freeze.

"Climatologists have been mapping each road on our salting network, taking into account the height and gradient of a road, shade from trees or buildings, wind exposure and proximity to the sea, rivers or hills. This means that, alongside decisions taken to grit across the five general areas in Essex, we can make better informed decisions to grit or not to grit when the temperature is marginal.

"This might mean, for example, that we may just grit individual roads in an area. In the future we may even move to gritting smaller stretches along individual routes.

"This is a great example of how innovative approaches can save us money while continuing to keep the travelling public safe."

Essex County Council has 57 gritting routes and says it takes just three hours to treat all designated roads.

For more on gritting routes, visit