Horsham could become a ‘wilderness’ due to out of control weeds

Overgrown vegetation in Manor Fields
Overgrown vegetation in Manor Fields

The amount of ‘neglect’ in Horsham is ‘horrific’, the town’s labour party has said.

David Hide, secretary of Horsham Labour, said overgrown bushes and ‘five foot’ weeds had made him concerned the town could become a wilderness.

A butterfly bush in Brighton Road

A butterfly bush in Brighton Road

He said: “You have got to ask what is going on in Horsham?

“We’re paying for this service and we don’t want to live in an environment where our streets are full of dirt.”

Brighton Road, Crawley Road and Manor Fields were areas highlighted by David.

He said the party had been contacting the council during the last two years to try and resolve the issue.

David added: “It’s always taken a big effort to get any kind of response.

“From the spring onwards in Horsham nothing was being done about the weeds growing into the gutters, the autumn leaves were still there.

“This has lead to literally five foot tall weeds growing on the pavement.

“We all obviously are still paying our council tax. [Horsham District Council] have statutory obligations to sweep and clean.”

Malcolm Willis, chairman of watchdog group the Horsham Society, said weed control ‘splits opinion’.

He expressed concern about support for prioritising verge cutting ahead of more vital services.

Malcolm added: “West Sussex County Council has decided to reduce the frequency of grounds maintenance.

“We are all aware of the shortfall in council budgets, but politics aside, decisions have to be made by all councils in prioritising tasks.

“The cloth has to be cut accordingly and therefore the question has to be asked what else would be cut instead of the weeds?

“Would it mean a reduction in highway repairs, or something similar?”

He said the society was concerned that any cutbacks should not affect safety.

Malcolm added: “[The county council] needs to confirm that, in reducing the frequency of maintenance, they will ensure that road signs are clearly legible.”

But Malcolm said it could be argued that vegetation is beneficial to wildlife.

He added: “The increase in food sources for many insects, especially at a time so many of our butterflies are threatened is a positive.

“A reduction in the use of pesticides and the effects upon our environment can only be good.

“For some, however, this ‘disorder’ to their neighbourhood is unacceptable.

“You will see many areas where local residents have taken responsibility for their own patch.

“Some residents mow adjacent grass verges, whilst others are happy to see them left to their natural state.

“There will always be differing opinions, and this is healthy, as long as safety for our road and footpath users is not impeded.”

David said he was ‘100 per cent signed up’ to the concept of climate emergency.

He added: “I know the value of trees and I know the value of our native flora. That’s entirely different to say, that butterfly bush [in Brighton Road, pictured].

“You can’t replace your concerns around the environment and supplant them with doing nothing in the town centres and letting the council off the hook.”

A Horsham District Council spokeswoman said West Sussex County Council is responsible for the upkeep of hedges or kerb side grass.

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council added: “Our grass cutting services are designed to meet safety needs while providing value for money and increasing bio-diversity.

“Scheduling grass cutting is a difficult balancing act, as growth is so dependent on seasonal factors, such as rain and sunshine.”

He said the council has been cutting urban grass maintained at public expense up to seven times per year between March and November.

The spokesman added: “There is no statutory minimum level of grass cutting over and above what is needed to ensure the highway is safe.

“However, nationally-recognised guidance suggests five cuts in urban areas would achieve a reasonable balance between maintaining the street scene and ensuring highway safety.

“We will now provide up to five urban cuts a year and make a commitment to: work with partner authorities so they can arrange extra cuts at their expense; work with interested organisations to increase bio-diversity; promote conservation of the ecology and roadside verges.

“In addition we also cut the county’s rural grass three times per year in the same period, which consist of the first rural cut to visibility splays only to allow for verges to become more established and help with our pollinators and seeding wild flowers.

“Our second one metre swathe and visibility cut ensures safety and a final overall verge cut at the end of the season remains unchanged.”

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