Concerns over the falling number of times grass is being cut across the Havant borough

Concerns have been raised over the falling number of times grass in public places is being cut across the Havant borough.
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Borough councillors have heard that the grass across the borough, which includes Havant, Waterlooville, Hayling Island and Emsworth, has been cut as little as three times in a year – a huge reduction from how often it was previously chopped.

It’s at least a couple of years since grass across the borough has been cut seven times a year, Cowplain’s Councillor David Keast (Con) said at a recent council meeting after paying attention to the decline in the number of grass cuts. Councillor Keast said the current situation is ‘not good enough’ and he remembered a time when it was cut seven times a year and not three as it was over the last two. He said: “Last year, the first cut was late May. I have taken particular interest and last year saw a team of eight operatives all working together. That’s two teams working together. I don’t know if that was the policy of trying to catch up but it seemed to me a waste of resources.”

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David Robertson, environmental projects consultant, agreed that services for grass cutting were nowhere as good as they should have been last year. He said with grass cutting contracted to Norse, the new managing director for the southeast said it had not been good enough and a new grass cutting manager is now in place who understands that the agreed level of cuts set by Havant Borough Council needs to be achieved. Mr Robertson said he is confident improvements to the service will be made because of the change of management.

Concerns have been raised about how often grass is cut in public places across the Havant boroughConcerns have been raised about how often grass is cut in public places across the Havant borough
Concerns have been raised about how often grass is cut in public places across the Havant borough

Portfolio holder of commercial, from May 2022, Councillor Lulu Bowerman,(Conservative, Emsworth) is also set to bring in a new regime for grass cutting. Cllr Bowerman said it is important to cut different parts of the borough’s grass in different ways. Asking how short and often grass verges need to be cut, discussing sight lines for drivers on certain parts of the road will all be discussed at weekly meetings. She said: “Certain areas need to be rewilded for biodiversity net gain. Sport pitches will be cut far more regularly than grass verges. How short and often can we cut grass verges?”At Tuesday’s overview and scrutiny committee, Cllr Bowerman and council colleagues said they wanted to reassure Cllr Keast that she will be working with Norse to deliver what it said it would. She acknowledges that last year was not good enough and doesn’t want to be ‘cringing’ every time someone mentions grass cutting but this year grass cutting might be different.

Bedhampton’s councillor Philippa Gray (Lib Dem) asked that the public be informed of the different regimes for grass cutting because some Bedhampton residents are convinced Emsworth gets a better deal. Cllr Bowerman agreed information will be given to residents where possible. She reported great positivity amongst the Norse workforce when she visited the depot at Christmas. They told her and her team they enjoyed coming to work now.

Mr Robertson’s report said:” Grass cutting in public parks and sports pitches operated well in 2023 and we will continue to actively monitor.” Mr Robertson said ‘well’ meant that in the main, sports clubs were satisfied with the service they received. He discovered that clubs that were not happy misunderstood the level of service they were entitled to. Sports clubs, he said, push for a ‘platinum-plated service’ that can’t always be delivered.

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The committee also discussed the varied work carried out by contractors Norse. Its contract with Havant Borough Council started in 2016 and provides many different services from waste collection, recycling collection for households and commercial, grass cutting, upkeep of allotments and cemeteries, play parks to street cleaning. A council visit to Norse’s depot is proposed to talk with staff. Mr Robertson said these ‘frontline service workers’ are people in trucks, boots on the ground, picking up rubbish and it’s pretty rotten sometimes but most of the people who do it choose to do it.