Unmowed 'wildlife grass' causes visibility problems on Milton Keynes roundabouts, say motorists

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Is council's policy of encouraging wildlife a risk to drivers?

The current 'wild' look of MK roundabouts and verges has prompted moans from motorists.

They say the long grass and wildflowers are blocking visibility at the approach to some roundabouts and could cause accidents.

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One driver posted on the popular 'Milton Keynes Moan' Facebook site: "I am finding that approaching some roundabouts in the city it is difficult to see if anything is coming round from the right because of the length of the grass."

The longer grass is a haven for wildlife at this time of yearThe longer grass is a haven for wildlife at this time of year
The longer grass is a haven for wildlife at this time of year

She added: "I quite like the wilder look and the hedgerows left to encourage wildlife. The poppies in bloom at random places are lovely. However, in the interest of safety and the flow of traffic it would be good to see a bit of maintenance in appropriate places. After all, the Council Tax goes up annually so surely they could send someone out with a set of secateurs?"

Other drivers have said navigating is difficult in places where signs are obscured by unpruned bushes or trees.

Some wildlife lover objected to the moan. "If the bees die then worrying about roundabouts will be least of our problems," wrote one.

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Another person posted: "I think the council does an AMAZING job. We have so much green space in MK.

But others agreed with the complaint: "Driving to work this morning Mk looked like the movie set of ‘I am legend'," said one.

Another described how he had a near miss when he was forced to slam on his brakes to avoid a child running out of the long grass at the side of a road.

Some people think MK Council should leave the verges for wildlife to flourish but cut back growth on roundabouts and junctions.

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"What we need is a happy medium. There are plenty of verges where the grass can be left to grow, the problem is really only at junctions. It just needs a sensible approach," said one driver.

MK Council maintains more than 10 million square metres of grassland throughout the borough.

Due to the council's prioritisation of other services during the Covid pandemic, grass cutting was delayed in some areas. Teams have still been out mowing but at a reduced capacity, and they've had to follow government guidance on social distancing.

Normally, council -managed public land is mown on a cyclic program between March and late October. The schedules are arranged to match the expected growing pattern of the grass and any specific management requirements for biodiversity, expected public use and highway safety. Schedules can be delayed by public holidays and bad weather.

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Rural grass verges are mowed less frequently to help wildflowers to flourish .

The council also spends £880,000 on winter pruning and maintenance. The main pruning period is between November and March and issues that are reported at other times of the year are scheduled into this work.

Under the Highways Act 1980 the council can take action if any vegetation, trees or shrubs from a private property are causing a problem for access, obscuring signage or are potentially dangerous to road users

Non-emergency issues can be reported online at https://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk.

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For an emergency such as a fallen tree on the highway, people can call the council on 01908 252353 during office hours or 01908 226699 at evenings and weekends.

An MK Council spokesman said: " Our grid road grass cutting programme began with the V roads and is now on the H roads. By next week local estate exits should also be complete. You can report any concerns to us on our website.

"Milton Keynes is reviewing its approach to grid road landscape maintenance and its green city aspirations by creating wildlife areas, but of course there is a balance and works are taking place to ensure safe sight lines for road users."