'Thin end of the wedge': Councillor reassured over plans to skip grass cutting in 'No Mow May'

Charltons, near Guisborough
Charltons, near Guisborough -Credit:Google

A councillor says he has received assurances over plans next month for a ‘No Mow May’ in selected areas of Redcar and Cleveland.

Redcar and Cleveland Council plans to limit grass cutting in May in some locations as part of a national campaign to promote biodiversity and help wildlife. The council is currently responsible for maintaining more than a million square metres of grass and said it had carefully chosen locations to provide space for grass to grow and to encourage the likes of bees and butterflies.

Councillor Steve Kay said he had “suspected the main incentive was money saving” and it was the “thin end of the wedge”. He raised a concern about the impact on Charltons, a village off the A171 near Guisborough which forms part of his rural Lockwood ward, although he had now received reassurances from the council about what would be cut there next month.

Other locations identified by the local authority to take part include the Stray in Marske and the King George V playing field in Guisborough.

Cllr Kay said: “There’s a lot of grass on the front and also a massive field with a play area at the back. The intention was not to cut three quarters of the grass, leaving out big areas and it [No Mow May] was just the start - this is the way it was put across in an e-mail.

“It’s supposed to be saving the planet and all the rest of it, but if some grass is allowed to grow it would end up full of dog muck and litter and small children would not be able to play.”

Cllr Kay said the terraced properties in the village, which are former miners cottages, lacked their own gardens and they needed to retain well-cut open outside spaces particularly for children to play in. A petition with 60 signatures was gathered by residents in protest following a meeting at a community centre in Charltons.

Following representations and a question being asked by Cllr Kay, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Councillor Adam Brook recently took part in a site visit with a council officer as a result. Cllr Kay, who was also present, said he came away from the visit “very pleased”.

Councillor Steve Kay with (left to right) grandchildren Emily, Penelope and Thomas on the playing field at Charltons after swings were refurbished
Councillor Steve Kay with (left to right) grandchildren Emily, Penelope and Thomas on the playing field at Charltons after swings were refurbished -Credit:UGC

He said: “They promised me everything that I and the villagers wanted and said if people didn’t want it, we won’t have it. We are not kicking No Mow May out altogether, but we demanded that all the play area field be cut, which was conceded, along with the large verge providing sight lines onto the main road the A171 and on the two entrances and exits to the village.

“It did not turn out to be the battle I expected, but I will be keeping my eye on things to make sure the council keeps its promise and the grass gets cut appropriately.”

The council said grass cutting will still take place as normal throughout the borough on roadside verges, housing estates, cemeteries, and playgrounds.

‘More colour and beauty’

Letting areas grow would allow for a greater variety of wildflowers and lead to more colour and beauty, while providing shelter and food for insects, birds, and small mammals, helping them to thrive. Once May has finished, the council plans a short survey so residents will have the opportunity to comment on the initiative.

Councillor Carrie Richardson, the cabinet member for climate and culture, said: “For many people the number one priority for the council is to look after the local area, to keep it clean and tidy, as well as to look after the environment for future generations.

“In May, for most of the borough we will be grass cutting as normal, but we will be leaving some of our open and green spaces to encourage colourful wildflowers to help the bees and butterflies. Even small acts like these can make a difference in tackling the climate and ecological challenges we face.”

The council’s biodiversity strategy aims to enrich biodiversity in parks, green spaces and along road verges, which is also deemed to be beneficial in engaging local communities with nature and helping people to get active. The strategy foresees 30% of land in the borough being “good for nature”, although in reality only an estimated 11% is able to be specifically preserved for wildlife purposes, according to figures.

Another objective is to reduce the council’s ecological footprint, councillors recently having agreed a new policy on the use of herbicides, specifically the weedkiller glyphosate. An update on the strategy will be received by its cabinet in June.

Last year private sector housing firm Beyond ran into trouble from angry residents in Redcar and Cleveland over inadequate grass cutting in areas it is responsible for, leading the company to an issue an apology.