HEDGE CUTTING & GROUND MAINTENANCE
The Middlestone Moor PACT members have for a number of months highlighted, to county councillors, the danger of some overgrown hedges on pathways and alleyways in Middlestone Moor.
County councillors are trying to make progress but the problem is none of the properties affecting the pathways/footways belong to Durham County Council, so it becomes a slow process to get Social Landlords, mainly livin and Home Group, private landlords, and private ownership to maintain their own properties. DCC have a legal responsibility to keep footpaths safe BUT they cannot just go onto property that does not belong to them to maintain shrubs and hedges.
In regards to Social Housing Landlords (in our area mainly livin and Home Group) the situation can get complicated. Tenancy Agreements require tenants to maintain their own hedge; not the landlord. There are a number of reasons why tenants do not do that i.e. a property might have had a quick turnover of tenants, someone may be ill, or the tenant just has no interest in doing it. Landlords will always looks to convince a tenant to fulfil his tenancy agreement in regards to the maintenance before taking action themselves; which adds time into the process.
After going through a process of writing to the landlords DCC can ultimately cut the offending growth BUT only after writing three times to them (with at least two weeks between letters to the landlord). Once the cutting is complete DCC will invoice the landlord, but DCC can only cut the part of the hedge that affects the footpath; they cannot solve the problem at source by going onto private land. This is why Social Landlords, private landlords (quite often they are absent landlords), and home owners need to solve the problem on their properties to prevent the problem reoccurring on an annual basis.
One problem that has not helped the current situation is that two years ago livin did not renew their ground maintenance contract with DCC and changed to another contractor; this transfer has not been without its own difficulties. Within the last two months livin have recognised the issues, raised by tenants, members of the public and councillors and insisted that the contractor increase their manpower; which they have recently done. Hopefully this will help resolve some of the problems.
During this period we, Spennymoor Independent Councillors, have had meetings with livin, Home Group, and DCC; with the most recent being a site visit at Lyne Road with DCC, and Home Group. We hope to start and see an improvement soon. Home Group will attend the next PACT meeting.
Separately to above we must mention the difficulties brought about by private developers, on the newer estates, who are no longer paying a commuted sum to DCC for ongoing cover for the maintenance of trees, shrubs and open spaces. Prior to the last ten years or so developers paid, up front to DCC, the equivalent cost of fifteen years’ worth of maintenance, and then DCC then took over this responsibility for good. However the developers are now installing private Green Management companies to do all the maintenance; paid for by an annual charge on home owners. Many people still think it is the councils responsibility to do this maintenance because they pay council tax; unfortunately this is not the case.
We understand the frustration of the public when they complain to DCC and see no or a slow responses to their complaints, but in just about every instance the response is affected by Durham County Councils inability to go in and do it themselves. They must follow the procedures discussed above.
Cllr. Kevin Thompson