At the start of the COVID-19 lockdown last March, the Parish Council looked for ways to help people keep a safe distance apart but still use the village footpaths. One particular problem was overgrown hedges alongside footpaths and a clear example was the footpath along the A54 Chester Road which was separated from the road by an overgrown hedge. The footpath which should have been nearly 2m wide was reduced in places to less than half. This was due to an overgrown hedge, which is owned by Cheshire East Council (CEC).
As there was some free funding available from CEC at the time to help support safe pedestrian traffic during the pandemic the Parish Council applied for a share of the money available to remedy the problem. However, this request was unsuccessful.
Discussions were then held with CEC Highways department to request they cut the hedge hard back rather than the usual light trim. Sadly, this also was not carried out and by then, the bird nesting season was upon us meaning no hedge cutting could take place at all. This meant that all last summer the hedge limited movement along this safe footpath and many people resorted to walking along the grass verge next to the busy A54, Chester Road.
Cllr Mike Blomeley, Chairman of the Village Infrastructure Committee, said ‘We were disappointed at the response from CEC and we did not want another spring and summer seasons to go by with this problem. So, early this year we decided it was a job well worth funding from our own budget.’ This footpath is used extensively by teenagers walking to the Comprehensive School and with the hope that the school will be open fully in the spring, some attention to this hedge was required now.
Local contractors were used in January to cut the hedge and another team cleared out the weeds which had been allowed to spread over the paving. The path has now been restored to its original condition and is a much safer place to walk.
Cllr Brian Bath, Chairman of the Parish Council, said ‘It is a shame the job took so long to carry out, but it is a real success and has been warmly welcomed by residents. There are other hedges in the village we are concerned about especially over the railway bridges. Many residents with young children from the new developments at Sandiford Corner and Brooklands struggle to use the pavements safely which discourages people from walking to the local schools and into the village. Although we value hedges for the wildlife they encourage we would like to see firmer action taken where pedestrian safety is endangered’
Photos below show Cllrs Bath, Blomeley and Clowes appreciating the wider paths. Photos also show before and after the hedge cutting.