Talking salt storage with Gateshead Council

Eleven years after its construction, Rubb returned to Gateshead Council’s salt storage facility to catch up with Interim Street Scene Director, Philip Hindmarsh. 

The structure itself is a custom designed salt barn, sitting on top of a 3m high concrete supporting wall. The salt storage structure measures 30m wide x 30m long, with a tapered leg height of 5m. The overall height of the storage facility is 13m.

We sat down with Mr Hindmarsh to hear how his Rubb structure has served the borough over the years.

How has the building performed over its eleven-year history?

It has performed well. There have been some repairs, the only maintenance we have had over the 11 years. The building faces the prevailing wind and has stood up to the corrosive environment over time to protect the salt.

What has it been used for?

Storage of salt. We usually buy in around 5,000 tonnes of salt per year, which means this building has stored around 55,000 tonnes over its lifetime. This facility supports the rural areas in the west of Gateshead, some of which are on higher ground. In the winter months we run a permanent night shift. If the weather is bad, then the gritters will be on the roads 24/7, with minimum downtime. Of 600 miles of road, we grit around 323 primary and secondary roads to keep everything moving.

How often is the building used?

24/7, all year round. We bring the salt in over the summer. In February and March of 2017 our salt supplies were really hammered, and we used a large proportion of our stock. In 2010 we used the full 20,000 tonnes and had to purchase more from Peru. Many councils now take part in the government’s salt sharing scheme.

As clients, what would you say are the benefits of such a structure?

It protects the salt from the elements. When salt gets wet it doesn’t perform as well. It forms into clumps and can cause problems with the gritters by clogging the treadmill. It is more cost effective to have dry salt as it can be distributed more effectively and efficiently. 

What are the main needs or challenges that the salt barn has helped the council meet or solve?

The quality of the salt is better and that is why we are looking at another salt shed for our other salt pile. It is very difficult to cover the salt and protect it from the elements outside, so a salt barn is a much better solution. It also provides a better working environment for staff and the drivers when loading up the gritters.

How would you rate the overall performance of your Rubb building to date?

It’s great; it’s done its job. It has stood the test of time for 11 years with minimal repairs. It has performed well, despite facing the prevailing wind.

What does the future hold for Gateshead Council and future winter planning?

We will continue to bring the salt in over the summer so it’s ready for the winter. We will be investing in an additional salt barn in the future. We work closely with a meteorology company to help us make more accurate seasonal predictions. We currently have a five-day weather forecast which flags up any significant weather to help us plan ahead, and we have a more accurate three day forecast to help inform decisions. We will continue to have staff working closely with the weather forecasters and people working through the night in winter. This means that we can get out and get those roads gritted when needed.

As Mr Hindmarsh looks to the future of winter planning, we do too. Rubb recently produced a concept VR tour of a 15,000 tonne salt storage facility to help customers better visualise the potential of a Rubb structure.