The Changing role of managing landscapes for Local Authority
By Howard Medlicot
I am sure the situation I describe is similar nationwide, the role of managing and Maintaining landscape features has changed beyond recognition.
Once upon a time landscape features were maintained in horticulturaly correct manor in order to preserve and enhance the health and aesthetic appeal of the features. Growing pressures on these open spaces has forced a new approach to be taken. Coupled with this many residents consider any gathering of children on an open space to be immediately associated with nefarious activities.
So a slightly different approach is called for in order to manage open spaces in a way that is appropriate for their use. Open spaces are there for the enjoyment of all members of the community, both young and old. Some authorities deal with the "perceived anti social behavior, ball games" by putting up notices "No Ball Games". In my opinion this defeats the object of open space provision, after all if open spaces cannot be used for appropriate recreational use then we are plunged back into the Victorian age of Parks where the instruction "Keep Off The Grass" was commonplace (this lasted well into the late fifties early sixties as I am sure many readers will remember).
There are a number of options available in order to control but not wholly deny recreational activities, such as strategically placed shrub beds and carefully considered grass cutting regimes and finished heights. I feel this issue is down to certain members of the public who lack tolerance and understanding of the needs of developing young people within the community. Furthermore people who choose to purchase a property adjacent to public open space should fully understand the possible use of the site and not consider it an extension of their own back garden.(Caveat Emptor)
I consider these pressures to be exacerbated in predominantly rural areas such as South Staffordshire.
The much talked about phenomenon of Global weather change has certainly impacted upon the management of Landscape features. We no longer can rely on seasonal compartments of the year, which traditionally dictated the required tasks, and frequency of maintenance. We now see grass growing vigorously from late March well into October or November.
Not only does this present logistical problems in terms of putting machinery on water logged sites, but also puts considerable pressure on available finances to cover the extended growing season. Many people have extremely high expectations of the landscape within their community, which is commendable however they fail to recognize the difficulties and I am sure would baulk at the prospect of increased community charge to meet the additional costs.
The extension of growing seasons has impacted across the whole species range; trees and shrubs enjoy a milder climate and demonstrate this with prolific growth. Consequently this brings with it other problems.
Once again peoples tolerance of trees and hedges adjacent to their properties. We often receive telephone calls claiming "I like trees but", when they are told we will not take the top out of trees to increase the day light to their properties they get a little upset! Once again I say consider what is adjacent to your property before you make the purchase. The recent High Hedge regulations have to some degree addressed the issue in part but falls short of delivering the aspirations of aggrieved residents.
The milder climate over recent years has also benefited pest and disease proliferation,once again this year chafer grub has been prolific especially on the sandy soils.
I could go on however I think readers may die of old age!
There are continual new challenges, KPI's, Performance Management, Heath and Safety Legislation not to mention the up and coming "Clean Neighborhoods and Environment Act"
I have to stress these comments are my personal view and do not necessarily represent any policies or views of my employer. Howard M Medlicott.