Farmers who lend a hand to grit and clear snow from the roads in Wharfedale will be allowed to use vehicles fuelled with restricted red diesel on public roads while on the task this winter.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has confirmed during extreme weather farmers can use red diesel in their tractors to help grit and clear snow from public roads.

Under normal rules, any vehicle being used to clear snow from public roads using a snow plough or similar device is entitled to use red diesel.

But only vehicles that are constructed or adapted and used solely for spreading material on roads to deal with frost, ice and snow can undertake gritting work while using red diesel.

HMRC now says it recognises the vital role played by farmers in helping to keep rural roads clear.

It has recently consulted on a proposed change to the legislation to allow red diesel to be used in tractors while gritting.

The body says it will adopt a “pragmatic” approach to the rules during periods of extreme weather.

It will not penalise agricultural tractors fuelled by red diesel for using public roads if they are clearing snow or gritting to provide access to schools, hospitals, a remote dwelling, or communities cut off by ice and snow.

Red diesel is classed as a rebated heavy oil – it carries less tax.

To use it as fuel in anything other than an excepted vehicle usually renders the vehicle liable to seizure. Also, financial penalties may be imposed on the owner or driver of the vehicle.

Call the Excise and Customs Helpline on 0845 010 9000 for more details.