West Swindon Parish Council

Grass cutting is like marmite. Love it or hate it - for some people we cut too often and for others we cut too slowly. This year perhaps more than others we have had mixed reactions to the grass cutting programme. The Parish Team are cutting on a three weekly cycle depending on the weather, however, they are cutting at a taller height than in previous years. This allows for daisies and buttercups to flourish in between cuts.

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Why cut at all?

The Parish Council maintains public open spaces in West Swindon as part of a legal agreement with Swindon Borough Council. This requires the grass to be cut six times during the growing season (usually April to October). Even if the agreement did not exist, there are many challenges with leaving grass to grow. Once grass has grown for four weeks or more in the growing season, the next cut is very challenging as it puts stress on the mowers. Cutting longer grass creates a mulch that dries like a thatch on top of the grass and is slower to complete. Managing long grass is generally more labour intensive so there is not the automatic financial saving that people usually think comes from cutting less. The machines are more likely to track grass across pavements and grass collects in the gutters. If grass isn't cut at all, brambles, nettles and weeds will take hold. The Parish Council does not have the machinery that could cope with cutting uncultivated land; specialist machinery would need to be purchased or hired in if a cut is required. Also if areas are left unchecked, the wild growth will eventually reduce the quality of the grass altogether. As a result, areas that are chosen to be natural meadows, need to have a long term commitment as it is not possible to restore it easily.

To make steps towards a sustainability plan for West Swindon, the Parish Council has created natural meadows in its two larger parks - Toothill Park and Shaw Ridge Linear Park.

What does the future hold?

The Parish Council will continue to review its management of public open spaces. Some areas such as backlands and copses can lend themselves to wilding projects and we will review these as we move forward. More spaces will be considered for natural meadows and we will consider how to manage grass verges. We also plan to work with the Community Forest Team at Swindon Borough Council to increase the tree canopy in West Swindon.

The Parish Council could expand its workforce so that there is more strimming and cut grass is cleared away. It could also buy or hire machinery more suited to cut and collect long grass. These choices have a financial cost and would have an impact on the budget the Parish Council spends on managing public open space. However, if local people are committed to a sustainable approach to how its spaces are managed, the Parish Council listens to the views of residents and will make decisions that it feels are in the best interests of West Swindon.

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