Frustrated residents form their own cutting crew

Volunteers set out to prove they are a cut above when they ganged together to cut grass left untamed by Blackpool Council.

Monday, 27th June 2016, 5:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:29 pm
Residents took it upon themselves to clear uncut grass in Highfield Road

But they were today warned they are stepping into a legal minefield if they plough ahead without permission.

Dozens of residents joined forces over the weekend to try to tackle overgrown grass verges along Highfield Road in South Shore.

The verges have been left uncut since Blackpool Council changed its mowing policy to save cash.

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Now only priority areas, such as parks and sports pitches, are being maintained with Highfield Road one of the areas particularly badly hit

But now with the help of Stan’s Mowers in New Hall Avenue, who lent the team equipment for the day, residents have been able to clear a small patch.

But it was far from easy going, as Deborah Stanley, of Stan’s Mowers explained.

She said: “Something had to be done, that was clear.

“You have kids playing in the long grass.

“It’s not safe for them.

“This group came to me to ask if we could lend them some mowers.

“Of course we agreed. I took some equipment along including a sit on tractor mower and we got stuck in.”

But the job on Highfield Road proved more difficult than the hardy band of volunteers might have imagined.

Deborah said: “The grass was so long, it was really hard work.

“We were at it for five hours and we’ve really not made much of a mark.

“It really needs the council’s equipment.

“They have the right tools for the job.

“These were domestic machines, they aren’t designed for this kind of heavy work.

“I don’t think they realised how much the grass was going to grow.

“People are having to cut their own gardens every week but the grass here has been left for so long.

“This is a decision that was taken in the winter time without thinking what was going to happen to these areas.

“Now you’ve got problems with dog mess, children getting stung, it’s not been thought out.”

And the task at Highfield Road has certainly taken its toll on the equipment.

“I’ve had to change the belts on two of the mowers we used,” said Deborah.

“They’ve taken a battering.

“They aren’t built for the job.

“We will go back if needed but really it needs the proper equipment.”

But she believes there could be a way forward.

“At Watson Road park they are now cutting the grass themselves with a tractor unit I sold them.

“It cost less than the council wanted to charge for one cut.

“Maybe with their own proper machines it could be made to work.”

The scene at Kincraig Park in Bispham wasn’t quite as frenzied, with just two volunteers taking it upon themselves to get stuck into the overgrown grass with a handheld strimmer.

Blackpool Council says it has no problem with people getting involved in grass cutting in their area but warned residents they must ask permission and have the appropriate cover.

Coun Graham Cain, Cabinet Secretary for Blackpool Council, said: “It’s great that the community is so keen to help us out with cutting the patches of grass that we are not able to reach.

“This is a great example of community spirit and we’re more than happy to help them and any other similar groups looking to set up.

“However, we need people to work with us when they choose to do a clean-up. Using sharp mechanical equipment like strimmers and mowers in your private property is very different to using them on public land and if, heaven forbid, there was an accident then there would be some very serious health and safety issues for both ourselves and the individuals concerned to contend with.

“Certain permissions, risk assessments and insurance certificates are needed to cut the grass. We are more than happy to work with groups to make sure that they meet those criteria, and can also supply extra equipment as well – however people need to inform us before they start to take the issue into their own hands.”