Council admits being 'badly let down' by its greens contractor after Northampton's grass verges hit 4ft in places

A lack of grass maintenance has left parts of the town completely overgrown.
A lack of grass maintenance has left parts of the town completely overgrown.

Northampton's environment chief says the town has been "badly let down" by its outgoing greens contractor after grass verges have now reached 4ft in places.

Councillor Mike Hallam has even apologised for the recent lack of maintenance carried out by the firm Amey, who handed over the contract to look after the town's green spaces to Veolia on Monday.

Some of the verges in Obelisk have reached 4ft in places.

Some of the verges in Obelisk have reached 4ft in places.

Pictures have poured in from readers this week, showing areas where grass has been left to grow out of control.

Parts of Southfields and Obelisk were among those affected - with wild patches of 4ft and higher even blocking drivers' views at junctions.

In Southfields - a children's football pitch is so overgrown it is barely playable.

“We recognise that the current standard of grass cutting has fallen below the level that both we and residents accept," admitted the cabinet member for environment, Councillor Hallam in a statement to the Chron.

Some areas have not been maintained since March, residents believe. Submitted image.

Some areas have not been maintained since March, residents believe. Submitted image.

"The borough has been badly let down by the previous contractor, whose contract came to an end on Sunday, 3 June.

“Our new contract with Veolia began yesterday. Veolia bring with them considerable expertise and have already assessed the work that is required to bring the town up to scratch so they could hit the ground running.

“There will be an initial focus on grass cutting and street cleansing in order to bring the borough up to a higher standard as soon as possible.”

Amey won the contract to handle all of Northampton Borough Council's environmental services, such as parks maintenance, grass cutting, bin collection and cemetery management in 2013.

But the contract has been greatly criticised over the past three years. In 2015, the town was left strewn with black bin-liners when Amey began enforcing the terms of its agreement contract to the letter and refused to take any rubbish not contained in the regulation green bags.

Last year, grass verges in the east of Northampton were left to grow to more than a foot long - and the year before that the company was criticised for interring a body in the wrong grave at Kingsthorpe Cemetery.

Retired accounting officer Maria Petit, 67, of Obelisk Drive, says she has lived in the area since the 1970s and has never seen the grounds maintenance get this bad.

"When you look right at the junction of St John's and Obelisk Rise, you cannot see anything," said the grandmother of three.

"The thing is, when they do eventually come to cut it no it's going to leave a terrible mess."

Back in February, Councillor Dennis Meredith (Lib Dem, Talavera) said the extent of fly-tipping in his ward was so bad, Enterprise had "given up" on the east of Northampton.

This week he says, the situation is even gotten even worse.

"You can't get on our sports field here, it's so long. The kids can't even play football.

"How long is it going to be before it's put back to normal? that's my concern."

Veolia, awarded the £11.9 million-a-year deal to take over the council contract, officially took charge on Monday.

The company has vowed to carry out a three-month deep clean of the town.