Verging on the Ridiculous

In April 2016, we took over responsibility for cutting many of the grass verges in Chesham. Previously this work was carried out by Buckinghamshire County Council as the local authority for highways maintenance. However, we received phone calls at the Town Hall from residents who were dissatisfied with when, or how often, the verges on their road were being cut. So, we were keen to take on this work, as being the most local council, we believe that we can provide a more responsive service that better meets the expectations of the public. 

The first grass cutting season was a learning experience for both the office staff and our Parks and Premises team, as we discovered the maps we had been provided with weren’t up to date and we needed to mow areas we hadn’t been told about. The weather proved to be challenging, with some wet periods that prevented mowing and made the grass grow even quicker! But by the end of the season, and with investment in a new staff member and new equipment, we felt we were in a good position to tackle the grass in 2017.

The good news is that we are now mowing many of the streets in the 30mph areas on a four week cycle, which should keep the town looking smart. We have initiated a wildflower verge trial in small sections of a few streets to see what chalk grassland vegetation might develop when left to grow longer. Just two months in and this is already proving successful with the discovery of an orchid growing in one of these verges. Volunteers from Chesham & District Natural History Society are monitoring the flora and fauna that colonise these patches so we can monitor the success of the trial. 

One of our mowers in action

Above: one of our mowers in action

We’ve also taken on cutting back highway hedges and some footpath maintenance. So, with all this great work underway, is it fair to say things are “verging on the ridiculous”? The issue is that we only cut some verges – others are still cut by the county council, some are cut by the district council and some by Paradigm Housing. We approached both the county council to cut some of their additional land, and also Paradigm Housing to see if we could take on their verges, but at this time they have not taken up our offer. Again, with the hedges, it’s not as simple as all that. We cut the vegetation if it comes from the roadside verge, but not if the vegetation has grown over from a house; then it’s still the landowner’s responsibility. And we don’t manage trees in hedges, these are dealt with by Bucks County Council. And as for footpaths, we will deal with many of these, but some are managed by the Chiltern Society.

The bottom line is that it really isn’t easy for residents to know who deals with what. We’re aware of cases where residents have called all three councils and Paradigm in an attempt to get a verge cut! If you call us, we will do our level best to find out who is responsible for a verge, hedge or footpath if it isn’t us. A good tip is that the verges on Paradigm estates will be cut by Paradigm (0300 303 1010). At the moment we’re receiving a lot of calls about the verges along Latimer Road heading out of Chesham beyond Mill Close. These are still dealt with by Bucks County Council (0845 230 2882) who do fewer cuts per year than we provide. 

We will help you navigate your way through the confusing tiers of local government, and ultimately we hope that you will see in an improvement in the standard of maintenance of the areas now under our care. If you want to get in touch with us, please call 01494 774842 (10am to 4.30pm) or email admin@chesham.gov.uk.