UK Local Authorities have faced austerity cuts for years. In spite of these challenges, Blackpool Council achieved national recognition for its local amenities: In 2019, Blackpool's Stanley Park was awarded Best UK Park by Fields in Trust, a UK-wide charity that safeguards recreational spaces.
Nick Horner is Blackpool's Lead Operations Supervisor for Grounds Maintenance. He is responsible for ensuring the town's 160,000 residents can enjoy some 150-hectares of green spaces around the community. "Our responsibility as a grounds maintenance team includes, local parks, sports facilities, the nature reserve, the local airport, schools, verges and green open spaces - including all the greens on Blackpool's promenade," says Nick.
Cost-wise, Major mowers edge out cylinder mowers
Nick and his team of twenty six grounds maintenance professionals are kept busy. Their machinery fleet includes a diverse range of equipment and they have learned over the years which equipment costs the council time and money. Cylinder mowers and Major Roller mowers make up much of the existing grass maintenance fleet - the latter having significantly lower operating costs.
Tasos Lambrou, an operator with Blackpool Council, explained, "The difference between using cylinders and rotary mowers is night and day cost-wise. The developments to rotary machines over the years means that they cut as good as a cylinder."
TDR offers more durability and versatility
Added Nick Horner, "Normally, local authorities change out their front-line mowers every five years, due to cost of maintenance and repair. We had our first Major TDR 16000 over twenty years ago, we're only on our third one of the same model in that time. We are getting much more durability and lower maintenance costs from these machines."
Blackpool Council's Major TDR16000 has a 4.9m cut with eight rotors and 32 contra-rotating blades which overlap to ensure a full-width cut. A three-point pivot system allows the wings to follow the contours of the ground evenly and, front and rear rollers ensure firming of the ground, while at the same time leaving a perfectly striped finish, without scalping, even on rough ground areas.
"Obviously on the nature reserve and conservation areas, there are mandatory requirements in how we cut and clear areas - but the Major TDR, give us so much operational flexibility, with very a low cost of operation, that we can use it in any type of amenity area," explained Nick.
Tasos Lambrou, Blackpool Council
"The Major copes with everything we throw at it"
One of the biggest weaknesses in mowers today is the belt-driven design of many models. The Major TDR has a direct-drive gearbox system, which does away with the belt-drive problem. "The Major copes with everything we throw at it," explained Tasos. "It can cut through grass 6 foot high and then I can take 10 minutes to adjust the sets and go and cut a football pitch or a cricket out field. To do that with a cylinder mower is nearly impossible."
Commented Nick, "We're surrounded by suburban homes and a dense population, so we have to be prepared for a variety of materials that can hide in the grass and the undergrowth that would damage or harm our machinery. A cylinder mower would have no chance with this type of foreign material. Whereas, with the Major TDR, this type of foreign object poses no problem as the blades just swing out of the way and it avoids any potential for damage."
Fine turf conditions for grass roots football
There has been a significant increase in people's use of parks and green spaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Tasos Lambrou notes the pleasure that local children get from the improved green spaces. "Grass roots football is very important to Blackpool Council. It's great to see the kids turn up every week. They don't have to kick a ball as hard as they can for it to go one yard. I think we've nearly tripled the amount of clubs we've got now. The kids are seeing the stripes on the pitch and when the goals are up and the pitches are marked out, it looks out of this world," he enthused.
"I'd go so far to say that these Major roller mowers have helped us significantly at Blackpool to provide a far better amenity for our residents, with a lower cost of operation and, with a longer working life," continued Nick. "That has to be a significant benefit to our community."