Officers from Environment and Commercial Services will be in attendance to discuss the topic of Prevention of Damage to Grass Verges in Middlesbrough.
RECOMMENDATION: that the Panel determines whether further information is required.
Officers from Environment and Commercial Services were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the topic of Prevention of Damage to Grass Verges in Middlesbrough. A slideshow of photographs of examples of grass verge damage that had been submitted by Middlesbrough Councillors was shown to the Panel.
It was acknowledged that damage to grass verges was a problem and the original layout of houses, housing estates and some of the road network in Middlesbrough had not been designed to cope with the increase in car ownership. Many households owned two or more vehicles and the demand for available car parking space had risen.
The natural solution to combatting damage to grass verges was to remove them completely or replace them with parking bays. However, the funding currently available was not sufficient to accommodate the level of demand for action. The total budget for Highways Projects was approximately £1.3 million a year which was used for carriageway resurfacing, street lighting, bridges and structures, traffic signals and flood relief. About £200K of that budget was allocated to grass verge repair or replacement.
In 2020, when the Scrutiny Panel last investigated this topic, there were 328 outstanding requests from Councillors and residents on the work schedule, which were prioritised according to the Council’s approved methodology. Currently, in 2022, there were 347 outstanding requests for works which would cost approximately £5.25 million pounds to complete. On a positive note, 20 schemes had been completed in the last 2 years.
Unfortunately, in the Council’s current financial situation, increasing the budget for grass verge maintenance could only be considered at the detriment of other work such as road or pavement repairs which were also in high demand.
Under current legislation it was not an offence to park a vehicle on a grass verge unless it caused an obstruction, there were waiting restrictions on the road, or there was a local byelaw in force. Heavy Goods Vehicles were however prohibited from verge parking. There were a range of enforcement powers available to the Council but it was highlighted that enforcement tactics could lead to vehicles being parked elsewhere and causing further issues. Enforcement activity was also resource intensive.
Stockton Council had been successful in using Community Protection Notices (CPNs) to tackle grass verge parking. Middlesbrough Council had also introduced CPNs in March 2021 but they had not been used to date for that purpose. Both the Community Safety Team and the Environmental Enforcement Team had been trained to issue CPNs. CPNs were issued to deal with the unreasonable behaviours of individuals that negatively impacted on the local community.
The process involved assessing the damage to grass verge and then proving that the behaviour of the motorist was unreasonable and detrimental to the locality. Photographic evidence of the driver of the vehicle was also required, since breaching a CPN was a criminal offence. Two warnings would be issued initially, a removal notice would be posted on the vehicle and then a CPN warning. If no action was taken by the vehicle owner, a CPN notice would be issued requiring the motorist to comply with the conditions stated in the notice. If the notice was not complied with, a Fixed Penalty Notice could be issued or a fine. Offenders could also be charged for the cost of any repair works to the damaged verge.
It was highlighted that Middlesbrough Council’s Highways Team inspected damaged grass verges and took photographic evidence. Car owners’ details were obtained from the DVLA and the Council would send a warning letter asking them to desist. This approach was generally positive. Repeat offenders would be targeted with a further letter letting them know that the Council could re-charge them for any repairs that were required. A suggestion was made that Councillors could be informed of individuals causing an issue in their wards, however it was clarified that releasing individuals’ details would be a breach of data protection. There was however potential for a reporting system via the Council’s website.
Members discussed the following points:
It was acknowledged that tree planting could be an option on selective roads, in consultation with Ward Councillors. It would be vital to ensure that the species of tree selected was suitable and would not cause other problems such as damaging the pavements with roots. Other considerations were that utilities were often buried under grass verges and that visibility on the highway should not be impacted.
The Panel was informed that the Council had tested the plastic grid option in Thorntree Cemetery and it was not significantly cheaper than hardening treatments. The channel still had to be dug out and the grass did not grow through it. Litter could also become trapped in it making it unsightly.
In relation to the suggestion of implementing one way traffic in narrow streets, it was clarified that a Traffic Regulation Order would be needed. As part of the green agenda and the move towards more electric cars, Officers were currently looking a solutions for charging points on roads with terraced houses which could impact on the availability of parking space. One idea was to use lighting columns as charging points.
With regard to pavement crossings it was confirmed that house owners could apply to the Council to have a crossing installed to provide vehicle access to their garden/driveway if required. All costs would have to be met by the house owner.
It was generally agreed by Panel Members that there was not a single affordable solution to the issue of damage to grass verges. Different solutions could be applied to different areas. Some Members were also of the view that residents should not be prosecuted for parking on grass verges where there was nowhere else available to park in the vicinity without causing an obstruction. Similarly, where motorists deliberately caused unnecessary damage, it was felt this should be addressed.
AGREED as follows:
1. that the information provided was received and noted.
2. an invitation be extended to a representative of Thirteen Housing to a future meeting to explore other ways of addressing the issue of grass verge damage.