Town Council Announces Cuts – Of Grass Verges!
The long roadside grass.
Barnstaple saw the first full cut of its roadside grass in 2015 this week, after the Town Council agreed the principles of a deal to take over responsibility for maintaining the town’s verges from Devon County Council.
The agreement should mean a formal transfer of the function from April 2016, with associated transitional funding from the County Council. The Town Council has also obtained grant funding to ensure that Barnstaple’s grass is kept under control until the agreement is in place, and instructed contractors to carry out an immediate cut, which commenced on Wednesday [30 July].
Town Clerk Will Austin said “This is great news for Barnstaple. We first suggested the change in November of last year, and I’m delighted that the County Council has now taken us up on the offer. Once we got round the table the basis for agreement fell into place quite quickly and we’re grateful to County Council officers, and Barnstaple’s own county councillors, for their efforts in getting us to this point. There’s still some detail to be finalised but we are confident enough now to get on and start cutting the grass straight away.”
Town Mayor Cllr Mrs Val Elkins welcomed the progress, saying “I am delighted that we will now see some much needed improvements to our roadsides, which for some months now have been an eyesore for residents and visitors. This is also a great example of how the Town Council can step in to safeguard services that are important to the local community. We are not a big organisation and we can’t do everything, but the town as a whole has been very clear with us that it is an important issue locally so we thought it right to step in.”
Devon County Council first announced proposals for major reductions in verge maintenance late last year, as part of its ‘Tough Choices’ savings programme. Mr Austin said “Town councillors understand the extremely difficult financial position of the County Council, which has seen huge reductions in the funding it gets from central government. It means that they simply can’t do as much as they have in the past, and are having to consider reductions in every service that is not considered essential. This agreement shows how smaller councils such as the Town Council can protect local services whilst helping the County Council achieve savings.”
In recent months the Town Council has worked with local businesses, community groups and residents to combat some of the areas worst affected by the reductions in verge maintenance. The Council’s Environment Committee Chairman, Cllr Arthur Windsor, praised the community spirit that has emerged. He said “It’s humbling to see so many people from across the local community coming forward to maintain planted areas through our sponsorship scheme, and volunteering to help clear long grass and weeds from our roadsides. Taking control of the remaining highway grass and planted areas is the final piece of the jigsaw that will mean the quality of our roadsides is in the hands of the local community in future.”
Above: Some of the sponsored areas.
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