Coping with a 'perfect storm'

Getting the message across to those outside the world of professional horticulture - and first and foremost our politicians - about the damage that will be wrought tomorrow from today's green-space maintenance budget cuts remains the single biggest challenge facing the amenity sector.

Right now, green-space teams up and down the UK are fighting to maintain control of rapid grass growth, an explosion of weeds and an emergent pest population enjoying the "perfect storm" of weather conditions, with a much depleted maintenance armoury, hit by year-on-year budget cuts.

Earlier this week, in HW's Breakfast Briefing, we reported on how the green-space team at Havant Borough Council was driven to issue an apology to local residents after admitting it has a "real problem" matching its resources with the number of cuts to grass needed following the wet and mild winter and exceptionally warm and wet spring, which has driven rapid growth.

Staff responsible for managing the grass cutting said the current situation is the worst for many years. Meanwhile, contractors are working around the clock to achieve satisfactory standards, with the inevitable impact on staff, transport and equipment costs. Pests too, alongside invasive weeds, are causing major problems, adding to the pressure on overstretched teams, professionals tell us in this issue (see p11).

Little wonder councils are increasingly turning to more flexible equipment that can tackle more tasks and cope with more difficult conditions to keep control of at least one of these challenges.

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