FOI Disclosure Log

Customer Request Details

22 February 2022

Hi I am a Master’s student, studying Zoology at the University of Sussex. My dissertation is centred around Plantlife’s campaign ‘No Mow May’, which encourages people to refrain from mowing their lawns in the month of May, in order to improve nectar availability for pollinating insects.

Would you be kind enough to respond to the following questions?
Thank you for your assistance.


a) Has your council heard of the scheme ‘No Mow May’ – (designed by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife?)
b) Has your council implemented this scheme? If so, how?
c) Has the scheme been promoted? If so, how?
d) If you haven’t implemented the scheme – did you consider it and what were your reasons for not doing so?


 



East Herts Council Response

18 March 2022

Thank you for your request for information, this has now been processed and the information that we hold is enclosed.

a) Has your council heard of the scheme ‘No Mow May’ – (designed by the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife?)
Yes

b) Has your council implemented this scheme? If so, how?
No

c) Has the scheme been promoted? If so, how?
n/a

d) If you haven’t implemented the scheme – did you consider it and what were your reasons for not doing so?
 
The Council has been developing its parks and open spaces with biodiversity in mind for many years and has as such modified grass cutting regimes to include conservation cuts (twice per year collected), meadow cuts (once per year) and rural cuts (reduced frequency at 150mm performance standard.
 
These specifications are applied to whole spaces in some instances and to marginal areas around many spaces to vary the landscape and create habitats that encourage the growth of wild flowers.
 
Our ongoing green space action plans describe some of the work carried out in this way:
https://www.eastherts.gov.uk/sports-leisure-and-parks/how-we-look-after-our-parks-and-open-spaces
 
Our new Parks & Open Spaces Strategy commits to further development of this type, this should be published in April and can be found in our Council Minutes for the Executive 8 February, item 328:
http://democracy.eastherts.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=119&MID=3904&J=4#AI26471
 
Grass verge maintenance in East Herts is carried out by us, the District on behalf of Hertfordshire County Council under an agency agreement.  The decision whether they might stop cutting during a particular month therefore lies with them.  We have had no instruction from them in this respect and would need to negotiate this with our contractor with greater advance warning than is now available.
 
We have however been in discussion with the County about identifying some grass verges across the district that it may be feasible to cut less frequently in order to create better habitats for wild flowers.  This would seem a more productive approach on highway verges than simply stopping cutting for one month in May.
 
The County have some wider objectives to improve biodiversity where they are able to, both on their own land and in partnership with their partners.  They are therefore keen to explore this initiative with us.
 
We have not yet established whether they would be able to fund a “conservation” cut which would require x2 cut and collect visits but suspect this will not be an appropriate choice given the increase in cost and the urgent requirement for local authorities to make financial savings.  Grass collection and disposal, even for only two occasions per year is an expensive option.  We fund this on some limited areas of our own parks where there is a specifically identified conservation benefit, the chalk banks in Southern Country Parks for instance.
 
The preferred approach is likely to be one cut per year on selected sites (meadow cut).  Many rural lanes are already cut to a “swathe” cut regime requiring two cuts but these verges are predominantly narrow 1.0m strips and need two cuts to avoid obstructions to the highway from grass and flowering plants.
 
We are currently only adding sites to the proposed list which we are confident would not create a hazard, i.e. not on visibility sight lines at junctions.  It will then be for the County Highway engineers to decide whether they think it is an acceptable risk or not. 
 
One of the principal reasons the Council offer to partake in the agency agreement is to enhance the standards to keep a tidier district.  We increase the County “safety” standards from 150mm to 80mm urban and from 250mm to 150mm rural.  Whilst it does make sense for HCC to benefit from the expertise and economies of scale offered through our grounds contract, we are only able to offer this where they fund the full cost and we minimise the level of complaints which have historically been experienced when grass verges are not cut to a tidy standard. 
 
Accommodating wild flowers may become an exception but only where it is safe to do so and where an overall “tidy” district is not compromised.  That is not to say that both Councils are not committed to making changes to improve biodiversity.  We simply need to meet the overall expectations of our customers.  Many are keen to see better habitats for wild flowers but we must acknowledge that when grass cutting is for whatever reason delayed, we receive high levels of complaints.  The expectation from most of our customers is that grass verges are kept tidy and not left to grow long.
 
We will combine any change of grass cutting regime with some positive media coverage to explain to residents why they may see longer grass in some areas. 
 
Where customers would like to see a reduction to cutting adjacent to their own property,  we may be able to add such areas to the list if we are confident that it would not attract complaint.  However this would only be possible where the change would affect only one property.  Where several properties would be affected we would not consider adding a verge to the list unless it meets our other criteria of rural character, width, sight line etc.
 
County are currently considering some wider issues around altering cutting regimes on property they manage directly before deciding to proceed with a change to any verge cutting so we cannot advise when such change might take place as yet.  They may also be considering soil type as a reduction in cutting frequency may have negligible effect on some soils.
 
We are hopeful however to be able to introduce some change this year.

 

 

 

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Telephone 0303 123 1113

https://ico.org.uk/

 

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