MIDDLEWICH was brought to a standstill on Friday as more than 50 salt trucks from all over the country swamped the town.

Frustrated drivers had to sit in motionless traffic as lorries loaded up with salt at the British Salt factory on Cleford Lane to respond to the cold weather crisis, elsewhere in the UK.

Andrew McCreaddie, 29, of Middlewich, said: “I was really shocked when I drove onto Booth Lane. I've never seen so many trucks.

“It reminded me of the footage of the fuel protests a few years ago. There were dozens of lorries and drivers standing outside their cabs talking to the police.

“They didn't seem to be going anywhere. All the drivers had to pull into the middle of the road to squeeze past the queue of trucks.”

Middlewich’s salt factory was called upon to provide up to 100,000 tonnes of low grade salt, a by-product of table salt, for icy roads nationwide when it was revealed that the salt mines in Winsford and Cleveland could not keep up with the demand.

Over the weekend, the Government also stepped in and demanded that the salt be taken to the Midlands to be blended with grit before being put on the roads.

Rob Jones, managing director of British Salt, said: “It’s a national emergency – but you can’t tell that in Middlewich where there’s been some sun.

“People have pulled in from all over the place – Birmingham, Cambridge, Northhampton, even someone was going to Essex. There seems to be a mass panic.”

But residents were angry that they were not informed in advance and that adequate traffic measures were not put in place.

Sandbach resident Martin Cooley, who was travelling through Middlewich on Friday, said: “It was total gridlock.

“If someone had put a diversion sign at the lights, or put up temporary traffic lights, that would have been a lot better.

“But to just have a big pool of trucks coming in from every direction was just ridiculous.”

PCSO Lorraine Carless said Middlewich Community Action Team had not been alerted in advance.

On Friday, she said: “Because of the poor weather conditions, the lorry drivers have got a job to do.

“We’re going to monitor the area and if we see there’s a danger, we will intervene and redirect the traffic. If vehicles have to queue, they’ll have to queue.”

The tailback of lorries forced police to close Middlewich Road both ways between Station Road and Booth Lane.

Booth Lane was closed to ease congestion both ways between Tetton Lane and Holmes Chapel Road and with long delays for traffic heading to the M6.

Mr Jones, who has worked at British Salt for 40 years, said salt trucks have been arriving in the town since last Wednesday, but many arrived at the same time on Friday, causing chaos.

To help alleviate the problem, the factory has been staying open for 24 hours and has been using three mechanical shovels to speed things up.

During the peak on Friday, Mr Jones estimated that the factory was filling up about 10 trucks an hour.

The lorries should continue to arrive for the rest of this week but in a more controlled manner.

He added: “We apologise for the disruption it’s causing. We’re working hard to minimise the impact but unfortunately we can’t control the traffic movement.

“We have got to supply this due to the national need.”

Mr Jones said the last time British Salt had to respond to a cold weather crisis was around two decades ago.