“Appearance Matters” so said Cllr David Monk (Con), Leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council at a full council meeting on the 19 Sept 2018. Since then he has often reiterated this mantra.
However, evidence shows the appearance of our district does NOT matter as kerbs and gutters are littered with weeds; and the pavements (Kent County Council issue) are in a dangerous state of disrepair.
Of late members of the Shepway Vox Team have walked around various parts of our beautiful district, only to notice a proliferation of weed growth in the gutters of the roads and pavements.
North, South, East and West in the district, these weeds seem far more pronounced than in previous years.
As we understand, Folkestone and Hythe District Council carry out weed control on the highway on behalf of Kent County Council’s (KCC), as they have for many years previous. They do this work within their street cleansing programmes. This means the work ought to be carried out by Veolia, for and on behalf of the Council and KCC. The service cost to KCC is £30,700 per annum, which given the size of the district is not a substantial amount.
This year Folkestone and Hythe District Council, with Dover District Council, are trialling a non-herbicide approach to highway weed control using their jointly procured waste and street cleaning service – Veolia.
They are, so KCC say, removing weeds using hand tools or by mechanical road and path sweeping. They may use limited amounts of herbicide if roads or paths have become heavily weed infested.
As we are all very aware street cleaning has been delayed in some areas of the district. KCC use the beautiful euphemism “this is due to operational challenges” and go onto say:
” we are confident the Council [F&HDC] is working hard to clean the roads and paths to keep them clear of weeds as quickly as they can.“
Now for those of you who might not be aware, on Wednesday, 20th November, 2019 Cllr Connor McConville (Lab) brought a motion at full council to stop the use of the weed killer Glyphosate. It was resolved according to the voting: For 27; Against 0; Abstentions 0.
Glyphosate is more likely than not carcinogenic and bad for us humans. So in short this means the weeds cannot be killed using this weedkiller unless absolutely necessary; and it is Veolia’s responsibility to clear the weeds on the pavements and the kerbs and gutters.
KCC further state:
We watching the trial carefully and with great interest. With Dover District Council and NIAB / East Malling Research Scientists, we have set-up a monitoring area in Walmer to closely examine the success of different methods being used in the trial. Both KCC and Folkestone & Hythe District Council Landscape and Street Scene Officers are monitoring roads in the district for weeds and are dealing with service requests and reports about highway weeds.
Any roads or paths of concern, regardless of where they are in the district, can be reported to either KCC or the Council by using these reporting tools
Folkestone & Hythe District Council at www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/contact-us or phone 01303 853000 and ask for Street Cleaning.
Kent County Council – www.kent.gov.uk/highwayfaults
The KCC tool indicates whether the road, path or verge is maintained by the County Council. The tool provides a unique reference number to enable tracking of the progress in dealing with the matter. It is also the quickest way to ensure faults are directed to the appropriate team for investigation and action.
But it is not just weeds which are an issue. The state of the pavements are becoming more difficult to traverse.
We have heard from people with visual, mobility impairments, those assisted by guide dogs, and wheelchair and mobility scooter users about how roots of trees all too often push up pavements, making journeys for these groups more hazardous.
Given that KCC are subject to the Public Sector Equality duty (PSED) – s149 of the Equality Act 2010, they are not allowed to discriminate against people with visual or mobility impairments, those assisted by guide dogs, and wheelchair and mobility scooter users when compared to able bodied persons in an analogous situation.
As pavements are clearly not being maintained (this is not a new problem), they are becoming unsafe for everyone, not just disabled people. The PSED requires KCC; and all other local authorities, to actively anticipate the needs of disabled people and make reasonable adjustments for them. In this case, highway/pavement repairs are clearly urgently needed.
It is time for Cllr Monk and the Cabinet Member Responsible for the Veolia contract, Cllr Stuart Peall (above right), to start pushing Veolia to clear the weeds on and next to the pavements, as appearance matters, so David says.
It is also necessary for KCC to actively repair the pavements, to makes life easier for people with visual or mobility impairments, those assisted by guide dogs, and wheelchair and mobility scooter users, as they matter as much as the rest of us.
Doing both sooner rather than later will save money, for as they say, a stitch in time saves nine.
The Shepway Vox Team
Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime