PAIN IN THE GRASS: Residents say enough is enough, cut our grass!
Blackpool Council has been accused of '˜neglect' and is facing growing calls for a rethink on its controversial decision to slash grass cutting budgets.
The authority earlier this year made clear it could only continue to maintain the high profile areas such as the Prom and Stanley Park.
As a result many grass verges and parks around the resort have been left to grow – aided by a warm and damp start to the summer.
Now Blackpool residents say enough is enough and are demanding the mowers return.
The decision, which Blackpool Council says is a financial necessity, has been the cause of increasing frustration for residents with many angry at the unsightly results.
A lack of grass cutting has already been linked to increased fly tipping and dog fouling as well as health concerns for hayfever and asthma sufferers.
Many residents have contacted The Gazette to complain about the state of the grass.
Chris Trumper, of Claremont Road, is among those who contacted The Gazette, angry at the changes.
He was left in disbelief that a major park would be allowed to grow in such a fashion and has even looked into the cost of cutting the grass himself.
He said: “I live opposite Claremont Park and the green there hasn’t been cut this year and is nearly a foot and a half deep and very over grown it looks an eyesore.
“The reason we moved in to this house is because it had a lovely view to wake up to but now it’s outrageous.
“I have even contacted a friend of mine with a tractor unit to see how much it would be and I would pay to have it done at least once this year.
“What’s going to happen if the council are not going to cut it ?
“Will it just be left in disrepair?
“This problem is bad throughout Blackpool.
“They will mow the football field, less than half a metre from the path but nothing else, what would it take for five extra minutes to finish the job off?”
Linda Spencer lives on Avondale Crescent, off Highfield Road.
She fears areas of the resort are becoming an eye-sore as a result of the policy and a lack of care from the council is being reflected in the way people are treating their own neighbourhoods.
She said: “Due to the most ludicrous decision I have ever heard of we are now living in an eyesore with serious health and safety issues attached.
“The council in its wisdom has decided that in order to save money that they will no longer cut the grass verges on Highfield Road (apart from a very small edge) and will leave the verges to grow sky high, full of weeds and more worrying, full of dog faeces.
“The height of the grass now makes it virtually impossible for dog owners to pick up dog waste and so it lies rotting and in great amounts.”
Linda has spoken to Blackpool Council and MP Gordon Marsden about the problems.
But she fears the issue is getting out of hand and cannot understand why the grass is still being cut in some wards.
Linda said: “We have contacted the council twice and have written to our MP but still this ridiculous policy continues. These houses are in Council Tax band E and F but we are forced to now live in a health hazard.
“Our carefully cared-for lawns are sprouting weeds everywhere due to the wild spores flying from the overgrown verges.
“The council accepts the policy can’t apply everywhere and certain verges will be cut.
“St Walburga’s Road is all cut and manicured.
“Are we second rate citizens?
“Why do we want to neglect our town for such a simple act of cutting the grass?”
One Mereside resident, who asked not to be named, got straight to the point.
She said: “The council are all for throwing fines at us – and rightly so – if we let out dogs foul and don’t pick it up.
“But how am I supposed to find anything he’s done when I can’t even find my dog?
“It may save money not cutting the grass, but it will cost far more to put other things, like vermin issues right.
“They want the resort to be one of the cleanest in the country – but what will the grass look like by then?”
Blackpool’s opposition councillors have been left equally frustrated by the policy.
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams believes town hall waste, as much as Government cuts, is at the route of the issue.
He pointed to the Devonshire Road car park – built to accommodate Blackpool Council’s town centre staff but used by just a handful of drivers – as one example.
He said: “The concerns are very clear.
“There’s issues for people with athsma with the increased pollen.
“Kids cannot play and it’s a mess.
“They keep saying this is about cuts, cuts and more cuts.
“It’s not just about that, you cannot just blame cuts
“There is a huge amount of waste going on – £250,000 for a disused car park.
“The Labour executive can always find money for their own projects.
“But there’s no money to cut the grass?”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said he had asked for answers from Blackpool Council about how cuts had been implemented and the affect on the community.
He said: “I’m aware of the pressure that the funding cuts from central government, some of them at very short notice, have put on Blackpool Council and the effect they have had on the ability to deliver services.
“However I am equally aware of the effect this has had on some residents and I have already written to the finance director to clarify how the cuts have been implemented.
“When I hear back from those enquiries I may then press on with a number of individual cases.”
Coun Graham Cain, Cabinet Secretary for Blackpool Council, said: “Our priority led approach will mean that popular and economically important areas like the Promenade and Stanley Park, as well as dozens of sports pitches and community parks, will continue to be cut frequently and kept to a decent standard.
“The grass that can’t be tended to has become overgrown and unsightly and people have every right to be angry about this.
“I am equally annoyed that we have to make decisions like this, however that is the reality that this town faces over the next few years as our budgets continue to be shrunk.
“In some areas of the town, ward councillors have chosen to use their local budgets to fund grass cutting in their area. That option is available to all areas of Blackpool and if people want to take that option up then they should be to their individual ward councillors.”
In Warbreck ward Danny Scott is ready to dip into his own ward budget to get the job done having raised concerns over fly-tipping at Gynn Square.
He said: “I’ve had a meeting just to find out the costs of cutting the grass fully at the two sites at Gynn Square.
“It’s going to end up getting paid for our of my ward budget.
“Now we’re just waiting to agree a fee.
“It’s money in the past that would have gone on other projects making a difference for people in the area.
“Now it’s just going to be spent on cutting the grass, what you’d expect would be a basic service.
“The community will be losing out.
“It’s not what you want to be spending this money on.”
Some areas of Gynn Square are already being cut and Coun Scott can’t understand the saving involved.
“They are already doing around the edges.
“Finishing the job is only going to be another 10 or 15 minutes.
“How is there any extra cost?”
Among the wards impacted by the changes to grass cutting is Brunswick Ward where grass close to the Queenstown flats site has been left to grow.
The area is represented by Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn, who defended the changes.
He said: “More than £400m has been taken off the people of Blackpool by the government since 2010.
“That cut is not pain free.
“That is £400m that was being spent on services which now can’t be.
“What we have done is prioritise grass cutting within the borough to ensure the jewels in our crown - Stanley Park and our cemeteries and crematoria - are prioritised.
“Other grass areas we will cut as and when we have the means.
“That does not mean we are happy, it means we have to prioritise.
“Of course it will have an impact but let me be very clear, every cut we have made has a huge impact.”
In Clifton Ward Coun Luke Taylor is ready to call on the community to get the grass cut.
He is looking into paying for equipment and training for volunteers to return the verges and open spaces around Clifton Road and the Mereside Estate to pristine condition.
He’s even ready to jump on a mower himself to help out.
Coun Taylor said: “We realise there have to be cutbacks and there isn’t room in the budget to cut all the grass.
“There are priority areas, sports pitches and cemeteries and we understand that.
“What we can do is pay, out of our ward budget, for equipment and training and set up a scheme for volunteers to get out and do the job.
“That’s what we’re going to try to do here.
“There are people willing to help and it would be fantastic to get the community involved.
“I’ll be ready to get on the mower and help out myself.”
Marton ward includes Stanley Park which has largely escaped the impact of the budget cuts.
But that doesn’t mean all the open spaces are protected.
And Coun Jim Elmes has dipped into his community pot to help ensure smaller areas are maintained.
He said: “I get out and about in the ward to see what needs doing.
“We haven’t been contacted by any residents but I know there is general concern over the grass cutting.
“It’s money out of the ward budget but it is money being spent for the community.”