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Councillor Mary Howard told a recent meeting of the council she has received “numerous complaints ranging from grass not being cut to cutting done badly and grass not collected”.

‘Excellent’ biodiversity results despite grass cutting criticisms

BIODIVERSITY measures introduced as part of Ennis Municipal District’s grass cutting operations have resulted in “excellent outcomes” the local authority have insisted following criticism of the service.

Councillor Mary Howard told a recent meeting of the council she has received “numerous complaints ranging from grass not being cut to cutting done badly and grass not collected”.

The council acknowledged receipt of two complaints relating to grass not being cut within contracted areas, saying these have been addressed.

Contractors working on behalf of the Ennis Municipal District cut 75 acres of grass a year with a budget of €80,000 allocated for the task, with council officials describing the contractors as “highly professional”.

Eamon O’Dea, senior executive engineer told the meeting that the contractors are “cutting continuously, they start at their first location and travel through”.

He pointed out that the areas being cut are “public open spaces, they are not lawns or golf courses and if we want those standards then triple the cost.”

He explained to achieve desired biodiversity measures cutting of grass has to be done in stages.

Complaints received by Councillor Howard included edges not being done and strimmers not being used. She acknowledged that the council have embraced the ‘No Mow May’ initiative in support of pollinators.

She said in some cases of complaints about the grass cutting people were just unaware of the initiative and once it was explained to them they were supportive.

Seconding the motion Councillor Mark Nestor said he is aware of areas where large sections of grass have been cut, but smaller areas are left uncut.

Residents groups and CE schemes have taken it on themselves to go and cut the grass, he said.

Tommy Scott, Senior Executive Engineer, stated that the grass cutting locations specified in the tender documentation published on “etenders” was circulated to the councillors.

“The two complaints relating to grass not being cut within the contracted areas were acknowledged and have been addressed.

“The biodiversity measures introduced (post contract award) has added restrictions and challenges to the grass cutting operations, however, excellent outcomes are being achieved with the wonderful display of flowers during April and early May bringing joy to all (while supporting biodiversity).

“This then is transitioned in phases from wild meadows to traditional grassed areas later in the season. Grass collection is not included in the current contract. Grass cutting operations are continually under review.”

Leonore O’Neill, senior executive officer, outlined the contract for the council’s grass cutting is for two years and was put out to tender. She stated that the contract was awarded in advance of notification from central government of the requirement to take part in ‘No Mow May’.

“That added complexity to the operation as we were looking to adhere to new guidelines brought in after the contract,” she said.

She explained that transitioning from the traditional grass cut to a way that would result in wildflower meadows “can’t be done all in one go, a number of cuts are needed.”

She said the council have been notified of a small number of areas covered in the contract which had not been cut and this has been addressed.

She said if there is an issue with an area that it should be brought to the attention of the municipal district.

She added from the council’s engagement, the contractors are “highly professional and do their job extremely well. Where there are individual incidences we will follow up with them.”

She stressed it is important that any potential issue is brought to the attention of the municipal district saying, it is not our experience that standards are remiss across the board, but we will endeavour to rectify.”

Councillor Howard asked if any of the grass being cut could be baled. Mr O’Dea confirmed this had been examined in the past, however the risk of plastic in the grass meant it was not possible. “It is not an easy solution,” he said.

Councillor Johnny Flynn voiced support for the ‘No Mow May’. He stated while initially during the ‘first cut’ green areas can “look disorganised”, the initiative has a positive impact on biodiversity.

He added that €80,000 for 75 acres of grass cutting “is quite good value”. “It is very difficult to go from cutting hay to taking it to reasonable grass.”

Councillor Paul Murphy acknowledged the work being done by the contractors. He described ‘No Mow May’ as a “fantastic initiative”, however he said that efforts should be made to ensure areas don’t look “neglected”.

Grass edges should be cut “to let people know the area hasn’t been forgotten about.” He also stressed the importance of having green areas available for children to play on.

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