Clashing priorities over ‘overgrown’ grass verges throughout Wokingham Borough have been vented.

While some residents have urged the Borough Council to swing into action to cut the ‘untidy’ grassed areas, others want some of the overgrowth to be retained, arguing that they are an important of increasing the area’s  biodiversity.

The duelling priorities have been the subject of discussion on the public Facebook page Wokingham Borough Environmental Ideas.

The issue has particularly been highlighted in Lower Earley, where neighbours have shared pictures of overgrown weeds and hedges in Regent Close and footpaths off Cutbush Lane.

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The topic was debated by borough councillors during a full council meeting, during members question time, where councillors are allowed to ask questions of members of the borough’s executive committee.

Siding with those who want the grass areas tidied up, Councillor Shirley Boyt (Labour, Bulmershe & Whitegates) asked: “I understand that the unusually wet weather has played havoc with the grass cutting schedule and I have received a number of complaints on this issue. I would like to be able to reassure residents that their road hasn’t been missed, but the only information available is the weekly grass cutting schedule which will say something vague like ‘we will continue cutting in Winnersh and commence cutting in Earley’. This is very frustrating.

“When can members and residents expect the ‘comprehensive, up to date information on grounds maintenance, routes, performance and customer feedback using new technology, as part of ’21st Century Council, via the Wokingham Borough Council website,’ which was promised in November 2018?”

Bracknell News: Overgrown grass and hedging along the footpaths in Lower Earley. Credit: Joy LuckOvergrown grass and hedging along the footpaths in Lower Earley. Credit: Joy Luck

Her question was answered by Cllr Parry Batth (Conservative, Shinfield North) executive member for environment and leisure.

Cllr Batth said: “Work is currently in process with our IMT department to look at ways for our customers to report and track progress of grounds maintenance issues directly on the website.

“Unfortunately, with our current systems, it isn’t easy for us to provide live updates of grass cutting. Due to seasonal factors and variable grass growth, it’s not possible to provide a set schedule outlining what will be completed when, which is why we provide an outline of areas that our contractors will be visiting to parishes and members.

“We had previously published completed cut dates on the website, which had since been taken down as we were unable to provide accurate information on a next cut which would have been the most valuable information to our residents. We will continue to review the technology available to us and our contractors to provide our customers with helpful, ideally live information.”

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Cllr Sarah Kerr (Liberal Democrat, Evendons) is on the other side of the issue. While acknowledging some open spaces do need to be regularly cut, she argued that some areas should be re-wilded – allowed to grow – to promote biodiversity. She also called for the council to sign up to the BLUE campaign, which encourages rewilding by working with schools and councils and dishes out ‘blue hearts’ to raise public awareness of rewilded grass areas.

Cllr Kerr asked: “This Council, as part of its environmental commitments, needs to ensure that whilst some open spaces like play parks and some roadside verges are regularly cut, it takes the opportunity to improve biodiversity in other public areas by turning them into native wildflower meadows.

“To ensure that the Council’s grass cutting contractor doesn’t accidentally cut these areas, and to mitigate any complaints from the public regarding perceived neglect of such areas, will this Council please adopt the blue heart plaque scheme, installing these plaques in wildflower sites and issuing a series of public communications to raise awareness?”

Bracknell News: Overgrown grass in Regent Close, Lower Earley. Credit: UGCOvergrown grass in Regent Close, Lower Earley. Credit: UGC

Cllr Batth replied by saying that the council is not overtly involved in the BLUE campaign, it has encouraged town and parish councils to identify rewilded spots of value.

Replying to Cllr Kerr, Cllr Batth said: “We are currently looking at ways we can improve biodiversity on Council maintained land. In particular how we can work with our contractors to clearly identify areas of wildlife value and have clear communication with the public and contractor operatives to make sure these areas designated for biodiversity are understood and maintained appropriately. In some areas this identification may be in the form of a Blue Campaign plaque, but this may not be suitable in all cases.

“We recognise that a larger piece of work is required to get this right across the whole Borough, and plan on working more closely with local community groups, Towns & Parishes , who are already doing great work for biodiversity. This will enable us to build on local knowledge and help identify and improve wildlife in suitable areas. Whilst we haven’t been in a position to actively promote the Blue Campaign, we have communicated this with Towns & Parishes and interested residents.”

The questions were raised at the full council meeting of the borough council on Thursday, July 22.

Grass cutting in Wokingham Borough is conducted by the council’s contractor Tivoli Group Ltd.