Environment and grass management
Environmental Services own, manage, and maintain over 300 parks, open spaces and verges across South Somerset, totalling 100ha in area.
Our vision is “to provide a network of well-managed, attractive and living open spaces for all to enjoy.”
Open spaces are defined as those areas of greenspace where residents and visitors can spend leisure time, undertake a range of formal and informal play activities, discover our natural environment, or just have a break. They significantly improve the social, economic, and environmental fabric of the district. The provision of open space, natural environment and play and recreational facilities contributes to the achievement of wider governmental and regional objectives, including social and community cohesion, urban renewal and promoting a healthy and enjoyable life.
Open spaces, play opportunities and recreational provision underpins people's quality of life. The development of open space (new or enhancement of existing spaces) does not simply improve the physical landscape but improves and influences the environmental, cultural, ecological and economical value of the surrounding area.
The following sets out a number of benefits of Open Space:
- An attractive environment in which to live and work
- Opportunities to improve health and personal fitness, and take part in a wide range of sport and outdoor activities
- Adds value to the surrounding property, both commercial and residential
- Quality and interesting open spaces contributes to attracting tourists
- Encourages employment potential and inward investment
- Opportunities for community involvement and voluntary activities
- An educational resource - an outdoor classroom, which stimulates ideas on art, design, the environment and nature
- Provides and sustains habitats for wildlife, aiding biodiversity
- Helps to stabilise urban temperatures and humidity
- Absorbs pollutants from the air and ground water
Research shows that open spaces are some of the most widely used facilities provided by any local authority. Our residents tell us that South Somerset has some superb spaces and they benefit from many opportunities to enjoy them. Whether visiting our country parks, walking a local right of way, or simply visiting their local park the enjoyment and benefits of open space is important to us all.
For identification purposes, we use a typology to classify the different types of open space provision.
- Parks and gardens - including urban parks, country parks and formal gardens;
- Natural and semi-natural urban greenspaces - including woodlands, urban forestry, scrub, grasslands (e.g., down-lands, commons and meadows), wetlands, open and running water, wastelands and derelict open land and rock areas (e.g., cliffs, quarries and pits);
- Green corridors - including river and canal banks, cycle ways, and rights of way;
- Amenity greenspace (most commonly, but not exclusively in housing areas) – including informal recreation spaces, greenspaces in and around housing, domestic gardens, and village greens;
- Allotments and community gardens
- Cemeteries and closed churchyards;
- Civic spaces, including civic and market squares, and other hard surfaced areas designed for pedestrians
Providing facilities that match all aspirations is not easy, and there are always challenges to face by way of maintaining and improving the quality, quantity and accessibility of, not only our existing spaces, but also the new spaces secured through housing development. The desire to ensure that our environment is managed in such a way that it is safeguarded for future generations is now of prime importance.
In order to ensure our parks and open spaces are managed and maintained correctly and fulfil the needs of our users, we have identified a range of service standards (based on industry specifications) that we measure our performance against.
The system that we use for this performance management is based on a good, or fail basis.
Mowing team and services
We currently have four mowing teams consisting of two members of staff which cover the whole district cutting of both South Somerset District Council owned land and County Highway grass.
We carry out 14 cuts to our own grass between 1 April to 31 October and then two winter cuts are carried out between the beginning of November and the end of March. These two cuts are dependent on weather conditions, but it does help to keep the grass at a manageable length ready for the new spring growth.
The highway cuts are carried out under contract to Somerset County Council Highways. Examples of this work are grass verges within housing estates, or verges with the 30 mph signs of towns and villages, but these are cut less frequently as instructed by County Council.
Our larger open spaces are cut using a tractor and trailed mower to ensure the most efficient use of time and machinery. This is carried out on the same cutting schedule as other SSDC land.
You will notice there are a number of areas where the grass is left longer. This is to encourage wildlife, bees and promote wildflower species in our parks and open spaces.
We use a ‘cut and collect’ mower on these areas that have been kept for wildflowers once the flowers have seeded, as it removes the grass allowing the seeds to remain and grow again the following year. This equipment is also used for cutting Parish Councils’ churchyards where specific regimes are required dependent on the location or environmental needs.
Our team are responsible for ditches that we own on our own estate or where we are responsible for the flood prevention management across the district.
Details of these can be found below:
These are maintained between November and end of December when silt build up, brambles, blockages and overhanging branches are removed, and the banks strimmed. This work is carried out to prevent culverts blocking and therefore reduce the risk of flooding.
Normal roadside ditches between road and farmland are the responsibility of the landowner and County Council Highways.
Hedges and shrubs
We start our hedge maintenance programme from the beginning of August, once the bird nesting season is over, and complete the cycle by the end of September.
We have recently purchased a tractor and flail so that we can carry out this work in-house, rather than putting the work out to contractors. Having the tractor and flail enables, not only efficiencies in the department, but the machines can also be used for cutting high or sloping banks and work on the ditches. Therefore providing safer working environment our team.
Shrub bed maintenance is carried out throughout the year, with spring /summer and autumn/winter pruning depending on the species of shrub, mulching and weed control.
Green waste removed from the shrubs and hedges is recycled, mulched, and replaced onto the shrub beds to suppress weed growth.