‘Grass danger is verging on the ridiculous’

Hockliffe Road/Mill Road junction, Eggington
Hockliffe Road/Mill Road junction, Eggington

Cash-strapped Central Beds Council is being accused of putting drivers’ lives at risk by refusing to cut roadside verges because they want to protect the wildlife.

Lush banks of grass and cow parsley, in areas more than four feet high, have grown up alongside roads and junctions in the district’s rural areas thanks to a wet spring and early summer.

But, while local councils maintain their verdant strips and parks in towns and villages, entering their efforts into the Anglia in Bloom competition, the countryside has been left to run riot.

Journalist Anne Cox complained to Leighton Buzzard town and district councillor David Bowater after being unable to see oncoming traffic at busy road junctions in the area. The dense vegetation on the central reservation and verges alongside the busy Leighton Bypass made it impossible to see oncoming traffic. At other T-junctions drivers’ vision was completely obscured by a jungle of uncut wild grass.

Anne said: “It’s fine if you’re in a 4x4 or a lorry but for those of us in ordinary cars it is impossible to see over the grass, which I don’t think has been cut this year. It’s incredibly dangerous.

“On the Leighton Bypass traffic is moving at 50mph and drivers were taking their lives in their hands pulling out of Billington Turn or crossing from the Totternhoe Turn.

“I’ve had other people report to me other danger areas in and around Leighton. I complained to Cllr Bowater and he managed to get the mowers to go out and make a rough hack of the grass in the central reservation on the bypass but they didn’t touch the roadside verge which still makes the Billington Road a very dangerous junction to use.

“I also complained about the T-junction of Mill Road and Hockliffe Road, Eggington, which has traffic coming into town at 60mph and you can’t see it . The council has cut a one-foot wide strip alongside the road which has done nothing to aid visibility.

“When I complained, in a personal Facebook message to Cllr Bowater, he said that he had been told that the council wouldn’t cut the grass because they wanted to protect the wildlife.

“That’s all very noble. We must look after our local bunnies and fieldmice – but they don’t pay extortionate amounts of council or road tax. Motorists using the area’s roads should be able to drive safely and not have our lives put at risk by misguided council officials.

“I suspect that the real reason is that it is too expensive to do a couple of cuts, and wildlife is a handy excuse, but they will face a lawsuit and have it on their consciences, if someone has an accident because the council hasn’t properly maintained the grass.”

Anne added that the long grass also meant havoc for hayfever sufferers.

Another resident posted an online warning about the junction of Shenley Hill and Vandyke Road, claiming motorists were “dicing with death”. She said: “It was reported a week or so ago and they came out and cut a bit of the growth but it was pathetic and made very little difference and now what’s left behind is even longer so it’s worse.

“I reported [to Central Beds Council] there has already been a death there, that children are transported to school on that route and that I had another close call before the ‘attempt’ to reinstate visibility took place.”

A spokeman for Central Beds Council decline to comment of specific locations, but said: “Heavy rain over the past few weeks has made it difficult to cut grass verges. We realise the grass is longer than it normally is this time of year. Our teams are out cutting it now and should have finished the current cut by mid-July. They are using more machines to speed things up so the roads are safe for everyone.

“We cut the first metre of verge from the road as standard, three times per year, with the full width of verge cut less frequently. The full width is still cut in those areas where visibility could be an issue.

“This is partly to reduce the amount of work that isn’t required in order to keep the roads safe, but also has ecological benefits. There are also certain areas set out as ‘roadside verge nature reserves’, where different methods of maintenance are used in order to encourage and protect locally important species.”

> If you see a dangerous area contact the council on 0300 300 8049.

> What’s your view? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk