Ringway apologises for problems with St Albans’ overgrown verges

Long grass verges in Hatfield Road

Long grass verges in Hatfield Road - Credit: Archant

Grass cutting contractors Ringway have come clean about the state of grass verges in St Albans and admitted they have had problems since taking over the job.

Both local residents and district councillors have voiced their anger about the overgrown condition of the grass verges in St Albans, particularly in the St Stephen and Jersey Farm areas, since the county council took over the contract from the district council this year.

But even though some residents reported that their verges had not even received their first cut by May, the county council maintained that Ringway were on to their third cut of the year and there had been no decrease in the amount of cutting.

But Ringway has now admitted that that it has had problems since the start of the cutting regime in St Albans where the company is responsible for 1.5 million sq ms of grass.

It puts part of the problem down to ‘an inevitable learning curve that comes with adopting a new area’ and also blames damage to a ‘vulnerable component’ on the new mowers purchased for work in St Albans which affected the rotor/blade arms.

In a recent update from Ringway which is being put out by the county council’s customer service centre, the contractors say that those problems along with the warm, wet and sunny growing season so far this year, had led to grass growing far longer than it should be allowed.

While the intention is to cut verges six to 10 times annually, depending on how the grass grows, there will not be ‘cosmetic cuts’ between maintenance visits as there have been in previous year and grass cuttings will generally remain on site.

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In light of the problems, Ringway workers are currently working extended hours seven days a week with additional crews in the St Albans district. The equipment is now working properly and further mowers have been hired.

The update admits that cutting excessively long grass ‘does not create an acceptable finish’ and Ringway crews are currently carrying out further cuts in order to improve the condition of the verges. When that is complete, they will revert to the county council’s specification for verge cutting.

The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of St Albans council’s city neighbourhoods committee next Thursday, June 18, after chair, Cllr Robert Donald, had to get the district council contractors John O’Conner to cut grass verges in the Whitecroft area where half had been cut and the remainder left.

Terry Douris, the county council’s cabinet member for highways, said the authority had not been aware of the problems initially but had now learned that there were some areas of the St Albans district that were missed from the initial grass-cutting schedule.

Confirming that Ringway were now working extended hours to address the problem, he urged St Albans residents to be patient as some areas would require several cuts before the grass was on an acceptable standard. He pointed out it was the first year Ringway, which cuts verges across the whole of Herts, had taken on St Albans as well.

He added: “If there are further areas of concern, please let us know by reporting it to us online at: www.hertsdirect.org/faultreporting.”