Cheshire East Council has updated its proposals for how green spaces will be maintained in future in response to feedback from the public.
The environment and communities committee will be presented with a report which recommends they approve a policy that introduces a maintenance framework for Cheshire East's green spaces, which include parks, sports playing fields, cemeteries, and green spaces within housing estates.
The policy proposes how and when each type of site will be maintained – such as how often grass is mowed, and shrubs and hedges are cut back – so that there is a consistent standard across the borough and so the service can continue to be affordable in the immediate and longer-term.
Following a public consultation held last year, the council has revised its policy as a result of the feedback received – with a shift towards most sites being maintained to a higher standard than was previously proposed.
The maintenance policy, which only relates to the parcels of land maintained by the council's environmental services company, Ansa, is required to deliver essential savings included in the council's adopted medium-term financial strategy.
Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council's environment and communities committee, said: "As a local council, we are experiencing 'a perfect storm' of soaring costs, rising demand, significantly reduced funding from national government, and uncertainty about national decisions and policy. This means we must continue to look at how we increase income and reduce spending.
"The standard of maintenance we currently deliver for certain green spaces across the borough is considerably higher compared to other local authorities in the region, which means that costs are considerably higher too – this is not sustainable.
"But we do also understand the value and benefits of green spaces to our communities.
"We have listened to public feedback, looked again at our original proposals and what is both an affordable and appropriate level of maintenance, and are now putting forward a revised policy.
"This policy also considers how the council can support biodiversity and reduce the impact on the environment, such as mowing low amenity areas less often, which will mean the grass can grow longer, and the natural flora can flourish – providing areas for wildlife to flourish too."
The report to committee also provides an update on a review of land the council is currently maintaining but is not registered as owning.
For sites where it is now clear the council is not registered as being the owner, and for sites where the land is not considered to be required for the safe operation of the public highway, the authority is proposing to stop maintenance from 31 March 2024.
Cllr Warren said: "We recognise that the proposals have been a cause of concern to some people, particularly for those living on the Grange Way / Lawton Way estate, in Elworth, where investigations have determined that the green spaces are owned by a third party, and not the council.
"But continuing to fund the maintenance of land we do not own is not something that we can afford to keep doing in the context of needing to deliver a balanced budget and protecting essential services for those residents most in need.
"To mitigate the changes we are proposing, we have engaged with Sandbach Town Council and we understand that a proposal for it to fund continued maintenance to the Lawton Way Estate could be considered at a meeting later this year.
"In addition, a number of third parties have come forward in other areas of the borough and expressed an interest in maintaining green spaces locally to them. If agreed by committee, we are seeking to introduce a process where people will be able to apply to the council to receive a licence to do this. This is only for green spaces owned by the council."
In response, the council will be refreshing the relevant pages of its website to include more information and, if approved by committee, will be publishing the policy and maintenance regimes so that people will be able to search for activity in their local area.
Subject to committee's approval, the new maintenance regimes would come into effect across the borough from 1 April 2024.
Click here to view the full agenda for the Environment and Communities Committee meeting on Thursday, 1st February.