Brrr-acing Blackpool

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Forget the sand bags. Get your skates on for this week’s must buy is ... rock salt. Ask Kenna Leadbetter, sales administrator at Fleetwood’s branch of family-run West Coast Building Supplies, which has been supplying the local building trade and private customers for more than 70 years.

Kenna’s been helping keep flood waters from the doors of flood prone local houses, supplies of sand and hessian bags delivered to order. “The worst of it has passed us by,” she admits. “But some prefer to feel safe than sorry. It’s about peace of mind. I got a call from the daughter of an elderly lady who asked us to drop some sand and bags round so she could fill them herself.”

Much the same goes for rock salt, supplies of which ran out nationally two years ago when the big freeze and heavy snowfall halted traffic and confined some people indoors for weeks on end.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be caught out this time,” says Kenna. “Some were left housebound last time. We’d urge people to make provision sooner rather than later. Local hotels and supermarkets are already buying rock salt.”

Other musthaves include insulation, easy to replace, roll out or top up, and insulation for external and internal pipes. The Fleetwood branch at Kilblane Street also has a new green energy centre. “We’re encouraging people to get the most out of insulation, draught excluders, other measures and stay safe. A lot have already called about condenser pipes for boilers. The year before last a lot of condenser pipes froze and the broke, water coming back into the house, or on a slow drip as people didn’t realise pipes had frozen. Many learned the hard way.”

Lloyds TSB insurance estimates that last year claims for burst and freezing pipes last year averaged £1,479 per incident to fix and 14,000 claims for windstorm damage cost around £350 per incident to repair.

After the floods besetting much of Britain comes the big chill- and the Fylde won’t get away with that. Temperatures nose dived yesterday and are set to plummet over the rest of the year - an icy blast straight from the North Pole.

We may yet see a white Christmas. Winter is coming earlier than usual with bracing Blackpool about to become brrrrrr-acing Blackpool. Blackpool Council’s frontline neighbourhood and traffic officers, out and about checking on more flood prone areas near farms and marshland, are now keeping a wary eye on the wintery weather.

A spokesman confirms: “Sets of officers are always observant of changes in weather and possible impacts it could have. We’ll then have people available overnight in case of any problems.”

But just as officers urged locals to have their own flood plans in place and buy sandbags ... rock salt now tops the list.

The saturated flatlands of the Fylde, one of Lancashire’s flood plains, escaped the worst of the floods - but cold can kill too. Bitter winds, harsh frosts and icy conditions are heading our way.

It’s time to batten down the hatches, turn up the heating, add some layers of clothes, stock up on warming food - and sign up with Blackpool’s tariff cutting campaign.

Blackpool’s Care and Repair, frontline housing maintenance agency, has issued reminders to wrap up warm and take no chances with health this winter.

A spokesman says: “Criteria applies but we will consider each application for help or inquiry. It’s not just for the over 60s but the under 60s too. Timely action now can really help in the long term.”

Care and Repair has a list of approved traders and also issues guidance on claiming winter warmer grants and other benefits. Ultimately contingencies may run to winter food packs and extra heaters and electric blankets for the most vulnerable this year.

Benefit changes mean more seek emergency help. Blackpool’s Disability First manager Alan Reid confirms: “It’s at the point where we issue a list of local soup kitchens with other guidance. People are struggling.”

The resort traditionally escapes the worst of the winter, protected by sea and other geographical factors, but while last winter was mild - this winter is tipped to be chilly enough to rival those of 2009 and 2010. Local councils are laying down reserves of grit. Lancashire County Council’s gritters have been out and about.

Blackpool Council has come up with an innovative and proactive measure - urging residents to sign up for a scheme which enables them to combine purchasing power and bulk buy energy. Savings are likely to be between £60 and £200 a year - the more sign up, the bigger the saving.

Residents have until December 17 to register an interest, and until January 14 to decide whether the deal is for them. Visit or call (01253) 477477.