‘Hallglen is being left to rot’ says councillor

Hallglen resident Thomas Smith and Councillor Colin Chalmers at one of the over grown sites. Picture: Michael Gillen
Hallglen resident Thomas Smith and Councillor Colin Chalmers at one of the over grown sites. Picture: Michael Gillen

Take a walk around Hallglen and you would think you had stepped back in time to the 1980s before the days of regeneration projects.

Weeds are growing out of the kerbs, roads are full of potholes, grass areas are overgrown and slabbed paths are uneven and dangerous and it’s not long before you come across fly-tipping.

Slopes with steep gradients are not being cut by the council. Picture: Michael Gillen

Slopes with steep gradients are not being cut by the council. Picture: Michael Gillen

Couches and furniture lie outside flats and houses and bags of rubbish with dirty nappies hanging out of them litter the side of pathways.

Decent, hard-working residents here are fearing their area is turning into a ghetto and are fed up.

As well as the general maintenance of the area, one of the main concerns now is the many grass areas with slopes in the community.

New directives from Falkirk Council’s development services, which took over grass cutting maintenance in January from corporate and housing services, order that slopes over a 30 degree gradient will not be cut leaving them overgrown.

In Hallglen there are 23 such slopes and other areas are affected too. Denny, Larbert and Banknock has 28 slopes; Falkirk and the Braes, 27; and Bo’ness and Grangemouth have 17.

In its Review of Cutting & Maintenance of Grass Slopes document, the decision to not cut these slopes is for health and safety reasons following risk assessments.

Councillor Colin Chalmers believes otherwise and says it’s down to budgets, with internal council departments arguing over who is footing the bill for maintenance.

On a walkabout with The Falkirk Herald this week, he said: “This is not coming from health and safety legislation, there is no provision for that on the cutting of grass slopes, it’s purely to match a budget decision.

“It’s one that will leave communities like Hallglen, which has suffered from a general lack of maintenance over the years as you can see, dilapidated as this is the worst affected area. It’s not just this grass issue, the whole village is being left to rot. The level of general maintenance is unacceptable.

“If people think that the council doesn’t care about the place, then this is going to cause people who live here not to care. Something needs done quickly in Hallglen.”

Resident Thomas Smith (69), of Annan Court, has one of the slopes that has not been cut at the back of his home. He echoed Mr Chalmers’ concerns and is worried that Hallglen will fall further into a state of disrepair.

He said: “People have felt the area is being forgotten for some time now. You can see the evidence right across Hallglen. It’s an absolute disgrace.

“Some people who live here need to take responsibility for some of the litter and stuff, but the council needs to do more here.”

A council spokesperson said: “We have been carrying out a review to look at the type of machinery we use to cut steep grass slopes with the aim of improving safety for our employees. This is not connected to any part of our budget process.

“The review will be completed shortly and we will be able to confirm grass cutting arrangements for all the slopes in Hallglen and other areas across the Falkirk Council area. Weed control is carried out twice a year and the second application is due now however this is weather dependant.”

REVIEW

Falkirk Council is currently carrying out a review into the cutting and maintenance of grass slopes.

The review is covering grass slopes with gradients of 30 degrees and over, but while the review goes on, the slopes are not being cut meaning grass is being left to overgrow.

The council say not cutting some of the slopes is for health and safety reasons. The report states: “There is no specific legislative provision on the cutting of grass slopes, however, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) publish workplace guidelines for this activity and they will prosecute an authority where an accident occurs and an operative is injured if a proper methodology has not been employed.

“HSE expect local authorities to carry out assessments for each grass slope which should identify the appropriate equipment, the methodology in use, competent, trained workers and adequate supervision.

“There have been a number of prosecutions by the HSE with substantial fines imposed where employers have been found to be negligent.”

The total area of grass maintained by the council across the district is around 1720 acres (696 hectares) in more than 9500 different locations.

The number of locations requiring a risk assessment to date is 95.

For the purpose of the review, the council area was divided into four areas - Hallglen (23 slopes); Denny, Larbert and Banknock (28); Falkirk and Braes (27); Bo’ness and Grangemouth (17).

Eight of the areas in Hallglen identified as having difficult and steep slopes and/or dangerous fall off areas have been deemed unsuitable for inclusion in routine maintenance.

The council is considering a number of options to deal with the difficult slopes which include: buying remote controlled grass cutters that can do them twice a year and leaving areas untreated as natural grasslands.