Why grass in Stevenage and North Herts public areas isn't cut

Overgrown grass in Grace Way, Stevenage

Overgrown grass on land off Grace Way, Stevenage - Credit: Louise McEvoy

Public green spaces have been left to grow wild in some areas of Stevenage because the growth rate is exceeding normal levels, leaving the council struggling to keep up.

Stevenage Borough Council says long grass in previously maintained public areas is not due to cost cutting or a reduction in service.

A council spokesman explained: "Our maintenance teams are operating in the same way they have previously. There has been no reduction in the number of cuts scheduled for the year.

"The problem is, following the recent spate of very wet and then very warm weather, the growth rate is exceeding normal levels. Despite our best efforts, the grass, shrubs and hedges are growing extremely quickly and the teams are struggling to keep up.

"In other summers, the weather is generally pretty dry around this time and grass growth much slower, sometimes almost stopping in periods of extreme heat and drought.

"In a standard summer, the non-meadow grass would be shorter and the town would look much tidier."

Some areas, though, are meadow managed grassland - cut and cleared once a year - to help protect existing wildlife habitats and create new ones. These areas include parts of Fairlands Valley Park, Town Centre Gardens, Hampson Park, Shephalbury Park, Symonds Green Common and Weston Road Cemetery.

Flowers in Weston Road Cemetery, Stevenage

Weston Road Cemetery, Stevenage - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Borough Council

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The council spokesman said: "Where we have managed grassland in this way we have seen greater numbers of pollinators and evidence of more birds and small mammals.

"Within the parks, large areas will continue to be cut regularly throughout the summer so there is plenty of space for football and picnics etc. Paths will be cut through the meadow grassland for people to enjoy their walks."

Flowers in Chells Park, Stevenage

Chells Park, Stevenage - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Borough Council

North Herts District Council says it is allowing urban wild meadow areas to grow to provide food and shelter for wildlife, and to contribute to off-setting the council’s carbon emissions as part of its Climate Change Strategy.

Sites that have areas designated for wild meadows include Avenue Park and Clothall Common in Baldock; Baldock Road Recreation Ground, Letchworth Gate and Jackmans Central Playing Field in Letchworth Garden City; and Cadwell Lane Playing Field and Butts Close in Hitchin.

Councillor Steve Jarvis, executive member for environment, said: “We have lost nearly 97 per cent of our wildflower meadows since the 1930s in the UK and this has had a huge impact on our wildlife and environment. Not only will this action help to sustain local wildlife, but it will also help in our fight against climate change in the district. I hope we will be able to expand wilding like this to even more locations.”

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