The failure to fully fund grass cutting by the Department of Regional Development (DRD) has led one council to take on the burden itself.
As part of general cutbacks in the transport budget, the DRD previously warned that routine services such as pothole repair and the trimming of verges would be affected.
In the newly-constituted Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area, the DRD withdrawal of grass-cutting services has led to complaints, so the council has opted to take matters into its own hands and do the work itself.
The idea was endorsed unanimously at a council meeting last Tuesday, and work began this week.
It was proposed by DUP Alderman Allan Ewart, who said he is not sure how much the work is going to cost the council. He said that in some areas grass could have been growing uncut since April.
“We shouldn’t really be doing this at all,” he said. “But it’s just to try and improve the look of the place.”
He warned residents they will not be able to service all areas, adding: “We’re only doing it in gateways and arterial routes coming into towns and villages. We’re not going to take over the whole grass-cutting operations.
“It’s probably music to the [DRD] minister’s ears that we are taking it on.”
He said they are trying to make their towns and villages more attractive to tourists, and “if grass is growing two, three or four feet high, it’s not very welcoming”.
The cutting is normally done by TransportNI, which is under DRD control.
The DRD said: “The minister has already stated that the DRD budget does not provide for sufficient service provision in areas such as repair of potholes and traffic lights, and other measures such as gully emptying and grass cutting at junctions.”
However it said that a “skeleton” serivce is still being provided. As a result, TransportNI has no option other than to cut back on the routine maintenance of the network.
“Grass verges and other areas will be cut once, in all locations, between April and October with sightlines at bends and junctions being cut more frequently dependent on direct labour and machinery availability.”