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Council remain in the dark over contentious grass cutting issue

Concerns continue to be raised over the council’s grass cutting budget following Transport NI’s decision to withdraw funding last year.

With the official beginning of spring now upon us, the contentious grass cutting debate has reared its head once again.

However, the Council remain in the dark as to whether or not they will be able to dip into a central budget for the upkeep of the Borough.

Councillor Gemma McKenna, speaking at a recent council meeting, expressed her concern regarding the £302,800 cost in the Council’s capital budget for cutting grass.

The Sinn Fein councillor questioned why this cost was so vast.

In May 2015, Transport NI cited financial pressures and subsequently halted all grass cutting across the Borough. They also withdrew funding to the tune of £38,000, for the grass cutting carried out by Councils. Nonetheless, the Council agreed to continue with the legacy maintenance agreements across the district.

The Head of Environmental Services stressed that officers were trying, without success, to seek clarification from Transport NI to establish if grass cutting would be reinstated for the forthcoming year, and if the contribution paid to Councils for such works could be revisited.

An initial response in December 2015 had indicated that Transport NI had only recently received confirmation of their budget and it was too early to say how this funding would be distributed.

He also advised that, despite requests, the Council had so far been unable to obtain any maps for the areas maintained by Transport NI.

Cllr McKenna added that she had real concerns about the issue, because it meant that there was some non-Council owned land that would be cut by the Council and other non-Council owned land that would not, which she noted was unfair.

She reiterated her understanding that the Council had a policy not to cut any non-Council owned land, and said that she would like a report into the matter.

Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon said  that he would be very keen that the Council continues to cut grass along the roadside verges within town and village limits, and agreed that they should write to the Minister seeking clarification around funding.

He also suggested that they should continue to try and obtain the information referred to by the Head of Environmental Services in relation to the areas cut by Transport NI and associated maps.

Councillor Gareth Wilson said that grass cutting was an important local issue, which would be picked up on by ratepayers and raised with Councillors, so he agreed that the Council should continue to undertake the work in those areas which had a visual impact in the Borough.

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