East Sussex County Council’s decision to reduce grass cuts in Hastings has enraged residents in many areas of the town.
The county council has dropped the number of grass cuts to two a year, leaving many areas overgrown and residents concerned it may be a health hazard.
Ashford Road resident Ken McEwan told the Observer: “The twitten which runs parallel to my own bungalow is currently akin to a forest with grass and weeds well over a foot high.
“Residents living in the area are seriously concerned that it could easily become a health hazard, particularly with the number of dogs that pass through.
“I did contact the relevant East Sussex Council department and was shocked to be told that we had been reduced to two cuts a year, a reduction of three from the five allocated last year.
“Two cuts a year is wholly inadequate, particularly in view of the current extreme climate contrasts of heavy rain and strong sun.
“It seems absurd that we are paying more in council tax and for hiring grass bins from the council only to be denied the vital grass-cutting service.
“In addition, the whole area is a total embarrassment when residents entertain visitors and could well end up having a detrimental effect on property values. We can only hope that East Sussex Council will reconsider its disastrous decision to reduce cuts before the situation gets out of control.
“To leave Hastings out of the present round of cuts is unfair and unacceptable.”
St Helen’s councillor Andy Batsford admitted that the current situation was ‘driving him nuts.’
Councillor Batsford said: “I spoke to the County council myself a few days ago asking when we were going to see our grass cut and I was shocked to hear that it wasn’t due for many, many weeks even though the rest of East Sussex has been cut already. They even tried to tell me that Hastings council cut its own grass which we don’t.
“I knew that the county council had reduced the cuts to two a year and I hoped they would have cut early to keep the height down but I’m afraid not. The whole town looks dreadful and it’s just not good enough.”
“There just isn’t the money out there in either council to increase the grass cuts at this moment even though I do hope that may change in the future.”
Cllr Antonia Berelson added: “This Thursday (May 17) myself and Cllr Batsford meet residents on the corner of Park Crescent and Tenterden Rise to discuss their grass area and to look towards forming a light touch community group who would look after the grass area and be able to purchase equipment for the community to use. This plan could be replicated in Ashford Road as well.
There have also been discussions with the community payback team who have provided help already by clearing weeds and pathways.
Councillor Batsford added: “In respect of getting the grass cut immediately the only way that is going to happen is a bit of local teamwork. I am sourcing a petrol strimmer and maybe some local residents can help collect and use their brown bins to clear up.
“This is not good enough and I’m not happy, but at the same time I can’t walk around seeing our lovely area looking so unkept,
“This issue has been driving me nuts for weeks.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Due to reductions in central government funding, we’ve had to make savings of £110 million since the start of the decade and a further £17 million savings this financial year.
“Regrettably, this means that we have no choice but to reduce spending across all departments.
“Earlier this year, full council approved a budget which included savings of £400,000 from the grass cutting service, to be achieved by reducing the number of cuts in urban areas from six to two each year, subject to lead member approval.
“We do recognise the value residents place on grass cutting, and subsequently held a consultation with local borough, district, town and parish councils, who were offered the chance to take on responsibility for urban grass cutting themselves or pay the county council to continue cutting the grass six times a year.
“Hastings is one of those areas where these options were not taken up and therefore grass in the borough will be cut twice a year, subject to the lead member for transport and environment approving these changes at his next meeting next week.
“The county council will continue to fulfil its statutory duty to cut grass as and when required where there is a road safety requirement to do so, such as at junctions.”