In the summer of 2014, grass across the Borough just kept growing and growing.
Following a high volume of complaints from residents, we realised that our way of maintaining public open space, such as parks and pitches, needed to be updated.
So we set out to understand what residents want, researched different ways of improving our services while not increasing the cost, and finally found a contractor who was willing to do things our way.
We’ve now entered a 10 year partnership with ISS Facilities Services that puts quality at the centre of the contract rather than frequency of grass cutting like our previous contract did.
The new services will use key performance indicators like grass height to ensure quality standards are maintained across all parks and open spaces year round.
We will focus on grassland habitat creation across the Borough, which will include several wildflower meadows. Leaving these areas to naturalise will mean we can make more resources available to increase standards elsewhere, like at children’s play areas and sports fields.
Unlike previous grass cutting regimes in the Borough, the new service will not rely on a set schedule but will instead be based on cutting grass when and where necessary.
Cllr Angus Ross, executive member for environment, said: "Our new grounds maintenance contractor ISS, is targeting grass cutting in areas of most importance to our residents. It will also maintain the grassland and wildflower meadows that have proved popular at Cantley Park in Wokingham, Ashenbury Park in Woodley, and on the Woosehill Spine Road. In 2015 we experimented with 13 different wildflower seed mixes successfully, introducing a variety of wildlife habits and improving the look of several areas across the borough.
"It's important to remember the contract has been designed with input from a public consultation held in 2014, when residents told us they would welcome a more flexible grass cutting service that targeted priority areas at priority times.
"On large verges by the roads we will ensure grass doesn’t encroach onto pathways, roads or obstruct sight lines. Areas in our large parks will have increased areas of grassland with wide mown footpaths through them, similar to Cantley Park and Ashenbury Park last year.
"There is also a strong focus on enhancing biodiversity by providing areas of longer grass and wildflowers in which pollinators and other wildlife can flourish.
"Our new approach is in its early days, and we are constantly reviewing and managing how our partnership with ISS is performing. We will be looking at customer concerns we receive, and responding where they are relevant as we move through our first growing season under this new system."