North Lanarkshire’s overgrown green spaces are now to be cut back following a special council meeting called to address the appearance of the area’s green spaces – and chemical weedkiller is being reintroduced to control the area’s growing problem.
The 1800 affected pieces of land not owned by the authority and which it had stopped maintaining will now be tidied up with a one-off £300,000 cut, “recognising the challenges of COVID-19”.
However, the programme will not be continued in the longer term; and groups of residents will instead be advised about establishing their own private factoring arrangements for areas where no ongoing maintenance will be in place.
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The Labour administration also used the special meeting – called by the SNP in response to multiple environmental complaints from residents – to overturn May’s opposition-led decision to maintain the authority’s previously-unanimous ban on the use of weedkiller containing glyphosate.
Council leader Jim Logue called it “the most reckless and irresponsible decision a committee has ever made” as the policy was ended, along with approving the one-off grass cut, in a 40-33 vote after his group and the Conservatives joined forces to produce a combined amendment.
He dismissed the meeting as “nothing more than a political stunt” – but opposition leader Jordan Linden said his group’s actions in calling it were “vindicated” and resulted in “a win for local people”.
The SNP leader insisted no action would have been taken to improve the area’s open space without their intervention; and accused the other groups of “not going far enough” in refusing their recommendation for an extra 2021 cut for every single open space in North Lanarkshire including cemeteries and parks.
Yesterday’s decision means land not owned by the council will be cut this autumn; marking a second U-turn on the policy, which was originally due to come into effect last year but was suspended due to the impact of the pandemic on communities making alternative arrangements.
A majority of councillors agreed to the move and then “to assess those areas that have not yet established a factor and offer advice and guidance to assist residents in undertaking such arrangements.”
It will also see the immediate reintroduction of glyphosate weedkiller after the Labour and Conservative groups agreed that the alternatives used for the past year are “unable to treat weeds in a timely and efficient manner [and are] much less effective”.
They hit out at the current treatments – which include hot foam and steam – saying they have cost £400,000 this year and would be estimated to double next year, adding: “This is money which could have been used supporting our most vulnerable or assisting in the cost of recovery from the pandemic.”
Councillor Logue said: “I am delighted that we have been able to overturn this SNP decision on weedkiller – our green spaces have been plagued by weeds all summer long and the Labour amendment will finally allow us to tackle the problem.
“We’re also taking action to deal with grass-cutting issues that residents have brought to our attention.
“The meeting called by the SNP was nothing more than a political stunt and their incompetence provided us with the opportunity to right the wrongs of which have had a drastic impact on our environment.”
Councillor Linden said his group’s actions had “forced the administration to deliver additional funding” to ensure grass is cut across the area and called it “an embarrassing U-turn” on the controversial policy.
He said: “I’m proud that we took bold and decisive action to place this issue, which local people have rightly been angered and passionate about, at the heart of the council’s agenda.
“I am disappointed that the Labour and Conservative groups didn’t deliver for all of our local people as they chose only to cut the 1800 zones that they previously decided to remove from the programme.
“They had the chance to back the SNP’s motion which would have cut all grass owned by North Lanarkshire, 1800 previously-maintained zones, cemeteries and green space – and also delivered a long-term review.
“We listened and were clear that action needed to be taken urgently, and I commit that the SNP will always stand up for local people.”
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