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Medway Council won't be doing No Mow May this year

A controversial scheme encouraging grass to grow wild for a month has been abandoned.

Medway Council came under fire last year for taking part in No Mow May, with its leader criticising the scheme.

An uncut verge on the A228 Halling. Picture: @whitcombetweets
An uncut verge on the A228 Halling. Picture: @whitcombetweets

The initiative split opinion, with some people complaining about unkempt grass verges and other who wanted to see it return.

Wild plant conservation charity Plantlife promotes the annual campaign, saying the purpose is to let wild flowers grow, therefore encouraging bees to pollinate.

Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con) called the concept "deeply flawed" and "poorly thought through" before committing to continue with the scheme with modifications.

The council received a number of complaints about the state of grass verges.

A Freedom of Information request to the council's environmental contractors Medway Norse revealed the number of grass cutting requests made online between May and July last year reached a total of 848, a 240% rise from the same three-month period in 2020.

Verges were left unmowed
Verges were left unmowed

There were, however, a group of people who called for No Mow May to continue in 2022.

The authority's deputy leader and climate change lead, Cllr Howard Doe (Con), said a new programme of cutting would begin next month and this would be communicated to residents.

He explained: "We are not doing No Mow May, I don't think that's the right way to do it actually, what we are doing is planning a cutting programme right throughout the year.

"I think just stopping doing it and then starting up again after May is not what we want to do.

"So what we've done is we've designated a different treatment to the whole thing so that where the grass is by the side of the road or is between the pavement and road, we will mow that very flat.

"We'll mow the first few parts of it and then for the rest of it, we will endeavour to keep in a wilder of sort of state as a general principle so that we can get more wildlife in there and it's a haven for it.

"So it's all looked after throughout the year rather than simply leaping into it in May, which I think was done with the best of motives, but I don't think it was very successful and it's much better to have a regular programme."

Cllr Doe went on to say he thought the new programme would be "more attuned to the green agenda of today", adding "grass is a great absorber of carbon and therefore the more you keep, the more carbon gets absorbed".

He added he would encourage residents to leave some of their grass uncut in order to encourage wildlife.

Rainham resident and Liberal Democrat campaigner Stuart Bourne began a petition on the council's website – which attracted 187 signatures – calling on the council to keep the scheme and put together a detailed plan for how it would be managed.

Cllr Howard Doe
Cllr Howard Doe

He said: "My impression of it last year was that it was well known in the eco circles what they were doing, but the wider community had no idea and the council didn't have good communication skills.

"I'm not expecting them to keep every bit of lawn long, but it would be nice if they could keep a few bits of lawn long.

"But as well as that, promoting it to homeowners because I think what would be really useful is if they could tell people in their own homes to not mow.

"So a campaign by them also to promote it in the community would be fantastic, and to make people aware of the issue and aware of why it's important.

"We need to protect the bees, because without bees, we're not going to have any food sources and they are going to die out as a species in their own right."

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