An online petition calling for North Lanarkshire Council to reinstate its previous area-wide grass-cutting has gathered nearly 2300 signatures.
Gartcosh resident Professor Sam McKinstry set up the petition last month as councillors agreed to a one-off programme to address the 1800 overgrown areas no longer being maintained by the authority, calling for the provision to be made permanent.
Now he has submitted the signatures of support plus more than 100 accompanying comments to council officials including leader Jim Logue and environment convener Michael McPake, asking that it be considered at next month’s meeting of the authority’s environment committee.
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However, council officials say that its issues are already being addressed following last month’s decision to undertake the one-off cut at a cost of £400,000 and reintroduce chemical weedkiller – and instead emphasised that landowners and residents will need to make their own maintenance arrangements from now on.
Submitting his petition, Professor McKinstry wrote: “The visible results of the council’s policy were generally resented or disliked; people like to live in cared-for, tidy environments.
“There was particular anger at the way the graveyards were seen to have been tended, a number of concerns about road visibility where long grass had been left at edges, [and] negative comparisons between North Lanarkshire and other authorities.
“Recent actions seem to be attempting to mitigate some of the worst of the unintended consequences arising from budget cuts – but it’s important the council appreciates the real strength of feeling on this matter.”
He told Lanarkshire Live: “The petition has a good level of support, but needs to continue until the council completely withdraws the cuts to our service.
“These are widely hated as they have degraded villages and towns all over North Lanarkshire [and have] seriously damaged the look of many places. It’s just as quick and easy to cut what they did before than to cut round it, based on Gartcosh.”
Professor McKinstry added: “There are new budgets to educate communities to ‘take responsibilities for their environments’ and expenditure on CCTV to combat the increase in flytipping – I’m arguing that parcel of measures costs more than the money saved from grasscutting, [which] is of far higher value.”
A council spokesman told Lanarkshire Live: “The issues raised in the petition will be addressed as a result of the decisions taken to reinstate the use of glyphosate in the treatment of weeds and to carry out a one-off cut of all grassed areas before the end of the current season.
“Guidance will be provided to residents who have not yet established factoring arrangements for future maintenance of grass areas not owned by the council.
“Therefore, the petition does not need to be considered by a council committee.”
North Lanarkshire’s website outlines that the authority decided “not to cut areas of grass not in its ownership” from last October, “because of ongoing reductions to our annual budget which mean that we can’t continue to provide some services to the levels of previous years”.
It states: “The council recognises that some residents and landowners may have had difficulty in finding suitable alternatives in 2021 as a result of COVID-19 potentially impacting on the availability of private contractors.
“As a result, the council agreed to carry out a one-off cut of all these areas this year. It is important to understand that this is not a return to the previous maintenance regime.
“It is a one-off cut to ensure that unsightly open areas of grass are dealt with and to help establish a baseline for when factoring arrangements are put in place by landowners in time for the start of the next growing season.”
Visitors are directed to an interactive map of areas which will no longer be maintained, and advised how to find out their ownership and how to appoint a factor if relevant.
The council site added: “We appreciate that these areas of land have historically been maintained by the council and our decision may have an impact on you and your neighbours.
“We understand this is frustrating, however, in the current financial situation, we are simply unable to continue to provide this service. Any savings made will be reinvested in other vital services.”
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