THURROCK Council’s director of environment has apologised to councillors for problems in her department that have seen large swathes of the borough’s grassland unkempt and uncut.
A number of councillors have raised issues with the authority after parks and cemeteries in their wards were left in a poor condition, despite the fact an extra half million pounds was added to the environment department’s budget at the turn of the year.
Among the most vehement has been Chadwell St Mary councillor Gerard Rice who protested today about the poor state of the football pitches on Orsett Heath, saying they were a danger to players.
And cricketers in Orsett had to get out their mowers and rollers to do the work to make their pitch playable at the weekend after the council failed to carry out work.
Last week environment portfolio holder Cllr Aaron Watkins issued a brief statement saying: “Our teams are working hard to deal with the increased workload and we have brought in additional staff to assist us.”
Complaints have continued to flow but last night (Monday, 21 May) environment director Julie Rogers emailed all 49 councillors acknowledging the problem and apologising.
She said: “I am writing to update you because I am aware that there has been feedback from local residents in respect of concerns about grass cutting and in particular the presentation of the cemeteries.
“I would like to apologise for the current issues and assure you that I am working with the team to address this as quickly as possible.
“The grass cutting has started later than normal this year as the early spring weather (unexpected snow, wet, and damp) meant we could not cut the grass at the normal time as it would have been ripped out by the roots.
“The hot few days that then followed have caused a growth spurt. We are aware and have reviewed our schedules to address this as quickly as possible.
“The tractor driver rounds are up to date, the continued growth has meant that the grass is longer than normal but should revert to standard height following the next cycle of cuts.
“With regard to the cemeteries, early last week a dedicated resource was relocated to Corringham and Chadwell, this will enable more frequent cuts and will assist with returning them to the required standard quickly.
“The work the teams have completed since last Monday has had a positive impact and they continue to work their way around both cemeteries with the aim of completing a full cycle by the weekend.
“Stanford cemetery works commenced last week and will be concluded tomorrow.
“We aim to have all cemeteries presented to their normal standard by the end of the month.
“There were three crews operating over the weekend when the following parks were maintained: Balstonia Park Stanford, Chafford Hundred Park, Palmerson Gardens Grays, Spider Field Purfleet and Usk Road Park Aveley.
“Ruskin Road Park Stanford was cut but still requires some work in the wooded area and Corringham town centre park will be completed this week.
“All other parks will be cut to schedule, however where we have higher levels of growth we will be focussing teams again this coming weekend and will provide updates via social media.
“New schedules have already been put in place, along with an increased resource to bring all our green spaces up to the appropriate required standard following the poor early spring weather.”
Portfolio holder, cllr Aaron Watkins added “Orsett Heath Field is in the process of being cut today and the sports pitches are scheduled for tomorrow.
“New grass cutting schedules have already been put in place, along with an increased resource to tackle the rapid growth currently being experienced in our green spaces.
“This weekend crews were working in the play areas in Balstonia Park, Chafford Hundred Park, Palmerson Gardens, Spider Field Purfleet, Ruskin Road Park and Usk Road Park. Corringham Town Centre Park will be completed this week.
“We will keep residents up-to-date with the progress of these works through the Council’s social media feeds.”