How to deal with trashed Northampton grass verges without getting punished for tidying them yourself

'Why am I the bad guy here for doing the council's job and trying to make everything nice?'
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It may not be the biggest issue in the world right now but the problem of grass verges being trashed by vehicles is on the rise in Northampton.

Adding to residents' frustration, those who try to improve the small roadside patches of grass are reprimanded by the council with seemingly no punishment for the irresponsible drivers.

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A Northampton homeowner in this situation, who wishes to remain anonymous, has managed to come to an agreement with Northamptonshire County Council as long as there are no further complaints.

Grass verges being wrecked by vehicles is the bane of many residents' lives - but what can be done about it? Photo: stock/JPIMediaGrass verges being wrecked by vehicles is the bane of many residents' lives - but what can be done about it? Photo: stock/JPIMedia
Grass verges being wrecked by vehicles is the bane of many residents' lives - but what can be done about it? Photo: stock/JPIMedia

"I can't fix it or secure it but damaging it is okay? They threatened to fine me for fixing this verge and keeping it nice but there was nothing for the person who parked on it," they said.

Residents getting annoyed by motorists parking on or driving over the grass verges outside their homes has been an issue ever since there have been grass verges.

But the increase in recent years in the number of cars owned by families and greater parking limitations have added to the problem as well as the rise in deliveries during lockdown.

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The grass verge outside this resident's home became more like a ditch from van regularly parked on it - once, a car got marooned when the verge was full of water.

Complaints to the council pointed them to Northamptonshire Police to deal with inappropriate parking, but the force said if the vehicle was insured then they would not be moved.

So the resident filled the verge with soil, covered it with new turf, and put some plant pots on top to make it look nice and put people off from parking.

But the van driver complained to the council, who told the resident to remove the plant pots as they were an obstruction.

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While the van driver moved away, the resident got into a wrangle with the local authority for a few weeks over the patch of grass before coming to an agreement.

They asked: "Why am I the bad guy here for doing the council's job and trying to make everything nice?"

Many residents have complained about this issue to Kingsthorpe South county and Trinity borough councillor, Jane Birch, over the years, which she described as 'tricky'.

The Labour councillor believes it comes down to a lack of parking, civic pride and too much confusion between the roles of the county and borough councils.

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"It's something that comes up all the time and i have said about it to the councils but it's such a grey area," she explained.

Cllr Birch said it often came down to back-and-forth between the highways team at the county council and the environment office at Northampton Borough Council.

She hopes the merging of the two councils into one unitary authority next year will lead to less beaurocracy and more co-operation to understand who is responsible for what.

Meanwhile the councillor urged motorists to be respectful of their neighbours and understood the frustration of those who just want to make their areas presentable.

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"It's something that really aggravates people and everyone has a right to live comfortably and enjoy where they live," she said.

"I do think there needs to be some sort of policy between the borough and county councils about it.

"People just need to be respectful of where they live and their neighbours and think about the effects of their actions on others."

The county council is responsible for highways so the verges come under its jurisdiction but the borough council cuts the grass and does own some verges in Northampton.

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A county council spokesperson said: “We welcome residents taking pride in their local areas and want to do what we can to help keep our residential roads looking attractive.

"The issue of people driving and parking vehicles on grass verges is on the increase with extra cars on ours roads, parking limitations in certain areas of the town, additional residential visitors, and postal/delivery vehicles.

"This can cause damage and obstruction, so we ask all drivers to consider others and avoid causing issues.

“That being said, we do also ask that members of the public avoid placing stones or planting on the verge to stop the aforementioned parking.

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"Whilst we appreciate the good intentions behind residents wishing to plant or place stones in the verge, the issue arises if there is either an accident, or damage to underground services (telecommunications cables etc).

"We do need to consider the safety of any additions to the verges and so, where we are made aware of any obstructions, we may have to remove them or ask residents to remove them.

“If you are aware of any issues or obstructions, or if verges are significantly damaged, please report this on the Northamptonshire County Council’s online ‘street doctor’ system for consideration.”