Giant weeds that have left North Yorkshire looking ‘like a jungle’ could cause 'entirely avoidable flooding'

A highways authority responsible for more than 9,000km of roads has been accused of a “total and utter failure” to stop the weeds leaving pavements “looking like a green corridor for wildlife”, blocking gulleys and making areas vulnerable to flooding.

A full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council heard residents living from Skipton to near Middlesbrough had voiced disbelief and anger over the volume of weeds that the authority had left to grow up to two and a half foot high and claims that it had been caused by errors at its new firm, NY Highways.

Councillor Helen Grant said the standard of roads and pavements around Catterick was “appalling”, while Councillor Robert Heseltine said the traditional back streets of Skipton had become “like a jungle”.

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He said: “I’ve had more complaints over this issue than I have had in total than I’ve had over everything else in 40-odd years of public life.

Skipton town hall

Stokesley division member Councillor Bryn Griffiths told the meeting urgent action was needed to stop gulleys from getting blocked and leading to what would be “entirely avoidable flooding”.

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He said: “I’ve got comments from residents in Tame Bridge. Their pavements look more like a green corridor for wildlife. You are probably talking about a combine harvester going around some of our estates to get the weeds out.

“What we are looking at is gulleys getting blocked in future and we’ll have flooding which is entirely avoidable.”

The meeting heard claims weeds issue was also due to the authority using particularly weak weedkiller and deciding to start clearing weeds at the end of July instead of in May.

Richmond councillor Stuart Parsons added: “North Yorkshire is now faced with having to go out physically and clear the weeds before they treat any of the areas. It is the same in rural areas as it is in urban areas. It is a total and utter failing.

“If the county council doesn’t get its act together soon it’s going to find itself with a massive repair bill for all the pavements.”

In response, the authority’s executive member for highways, Councillor Don Mackenzie said he was aware that areas close to the kerbs had become “quite affected by weed growth” and the council recognised that residents wanted weeds to be dealt with.

He said an increase in weeds was being experienced throughout the country due to mild winters, reduced use of salt, less traffic and pedestrians, and the council did not want to use chemicals more than once annually due to the environmental consequences.

Councillor Mackenzie denied there had been an issue handing contracts to NY Highways, which he said was experimenting in Harrogate with other more environmentally-friendly ways of killing weeds, such as hot water or steam treatments.

After saying residents were free to spend five minutes clearing weeds from gutters, Councillor Mackenzie was accused of “smoke and mirrors” to hide the gravity of the issue and that the concerns involved some busy roads.