‘Relaxed mowing’ of Leeds council grassland sparks debate

bramley grass cutting

Words: Richard Beecham

Leeds City Council parks chiefs have been called to give more clarity on the authority’s policy of “relaxed mowing” on some of its grassed areas, as many in the city simply believe the council has become “lazy” when managing its grassland.

The policy to reduce the frequency of mowing in some council-owned grassed areas, such as parks and verges, was introduced last year in an attempt to improve the environment and save on costs and energy usage.

But members of the authority’s climate emergency committee claimed many members of the public were confused by this policy, while others claimed it was never communicated to them how it would be implemented.

Coun Peter Carlill (Lab, Calverley & Farsley) said:

“A lot of us have had slightly confused emails from residents. When a confused resident comes back querying why the grass is longer than it used to be, I have provided a nice, detailed response of the many benefits of relaxed mowing and that is understood, but unfortunately just that communication has been the struggle.

“It is a positive policy going forward.  Some of the difficulties to that is that the verges are on highways, but the maintenance comes with parks.”

Coun Paul Wray (Lab) said:

“Relaxed mowing – wonderful, great – but we have said repeatedly at this committee that councillors need to be told where it’s happening and consultation with the public, because they think we are being lazy as a council and we are not explaining what we’re doing.

“Again and again and again, this request seems to be completely ignored, to share where they’re planning to do it so we can have those communications. Even if we just have a sign there saying why we are doing it, it turns a complaint into a benefit.”

According to Leeds City Council documents, relaxed mowing was introduced to help some areas revert to “semi-natural conditions”. As well as requiring reduced energy consumption from cutting, it is also said to have greater benefits to natural habitats.

The meeting heard how both parkland and grass verges close to roads were subject to relaxed mowing.

Coun Barry Anderson (Con) added:

“On the verges, we have 50 per cent of people who think it is great and 50 per cent of people who think it is an absolute disgrace.

“By making the case, can we have some form of measurement that we can show to people. I have had people coming back to me saying ‘can you prove that it is getting better?’ – I can’t.

“Some landowners are seeing this as a green light that they don’t have to maintain their fields, and they are blocking pathways to go to Golden Acre Park, for example.

“They say ‘well, the council isn’t cutting the grass’, and that type of argument.”

Coun Helen Hayden (Lab) said a “comprehensive communications plan” was being put together the get the message across to the public.

She added: “Back in July, myself and my ward colleagues were accused on Facebook of not honouring the war dead, because the hawthorn hedges around the cenotaph, which we adore and is a really beautiful space, had not been cut.

“It was really, really upsetting to be accused of that, as it couldn’t be further from the truth. I am thinking about cemeteries, and being very respectful of those sacred places, while contributing to the fight against the climate emergencies.”

Coun Conrad Hart-Brooke (Lib Dem) said: “There is a difference between relaxed mowing and it looking like Sleeping Beauty’s dense forest, waiting for Prince Charming to come along and cut it down.

“We have got lots of areas where there are lots of brambles, and it is just a mess, to be honest.”

Coun Paul Wadsworth (Lib Dem) said: “I have had a number of people who have visited this city who have said to me ‘what have you done with your grass in Leeds, have you lost your mower?’

“We need to communicate that to people as to why we are letting the verges, particularly around the ring road, to grow six foot high.

“A number of ward members are nervous about cemeteries. If you relax it, you will get complaints. People do want cemeteries to look nice, and some people think they own the part of the cemetery that is their plot.

“People do feel that little space is their piece of land. It’s not, but they think it is.”


  1. Living in Greenville Gardens in Wortley and backing onto the park used to be lovely, now its a nightmare.
    The grass has been allowed to grow up to four feet high and has encouraged wildlife for sure, but not the wildlife we want. Their has been rats reported several times something that I have not known before in 50 years of living here.

    The garden is a nightmare to keep weed free, brambles, hawthorn in the hedge making it difficult to cut. Being constantly bitten by thousands of swarming insects in the evening.

    Many neighbours have taken to cutting the grass themselves, and this is no mean feat and I feel personally that the Council should take responsibility and at least strim the hedgerows as an act that a good neighbourl should.

    May I add that the broken pipe causing the water flooding is still not repaired. As they state it is a natural stream, well if it is why cant they direct it to a drain instead of letting it cause untold problems.

  2. Love the move to less frequent mowing. Great for pollinators which has a knock on effect to whole food chains/webs – more birds and amphibians is great news. These in turn will balance pollinators out given a chance. Plus the fact that it just adds way more interest than closely cut grass and trees bereft of limbs.

    There’s a cost implication too as meadows only need clearing and composting once a year (to keep soil fertility low).

    I agree, with a little more communication of the benefits I’m sure people would be won over.

    Thanks to the council for starting to recognise a decline in biodiversity (a worldwide problem) and taking steps to ensure beautiful nature is present for our children to explore.

  3. There have been places where you have to pull out into 90 mph Ring Road traffic blind due to grass taller than the car.

    As a frequent walker, I can confirm that crossing the road in places when it rains is like stepping into four feet of icy water. The river is shallower. Many days have been ruined by this.

    It looks like Birmingham in the 1970s.

    This is not a compliment.

  4. I agree that letting certain areas of Leeds, such as parks (part of at least) and common land, become more natural but this should NOT include the grass and hedges alongside our major roads. I live in Stourton and the verge between the dual carriageway on the A639 Leeds Road between Junction 44 of the M1 and Methley Road roundabout is now higher than a normal car making it impossible to see traffic turning across the road. This is a very serious safety hazard and accidents, and possibly loss of life will ensue.

    Also in places the hedges on the side of the road are, in places, threatening to invade the roadway with their branches. This again is a serious hazard to traffic and will cause accidents.

    And it is just not in Stourton where this is happening. It is also happening all around various places in Leeds and I am sure many residents would be able to cite cases where it is becoming dangerous. There is a difference to ‘relaxed mowing’ and keeping the roads clear of obvious impediments to sight, these NEED to be kept clear for safety reasons alone.

  5. I agree with Stephen the grass on the streach of the ring road between Rodley roundabout and Dawsons corner was allowed to grow so high it was like Russian roulette trying to come out of a juntion onto the ring road, it won’t be long before a serious accident happens just because the grass is to long

  6. This is nothing more than cost cutting dressed up as something else. Pay more, get less. Tidy up the edges, plant some wildflowers it’s nothing but weeds.

    • I totally agree. It’s ok letting the grass grown in certain places is so wrong. My mum 80 lives on a
      Private street. The bottom of the trees haven’t been cut since last year and the verges are now as tall as her in parts. It’s making it really really hard for her and others to cross the road as she has to step out over the very long grass
      Then step out further in order to get a good view of the traffic. Someone is going to get hurt


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