Aberdeenshire Council begins phased return to landscape maintenance with initial focus on cemeteries

The last few months have seen significant changes to many aspects of our lives and work as the COVID-19 pandemic has developed. 

Aberdeenshire Council services have been redesigned and personnel redeployed to concentrate on critical activities, such as health and social care provision, waste collection and burials, and this work will continue to be our priority as we move through the stages of recovery.

Many of the regular frontline activities that the Roads, Landscape and Waste Service undertake have had to be suspended as we respond to different priorities and remodel work systems to comply with current guidance.  

The publication of the Scottish Government’s Route Plan provides helpful information as to how the situation may change over the coming weeks and months, and we are putting plans in place to start certain frontline services.  

In most cases our activities will have to be delivered in a significantly different way, but it will simply not be a case of returning to the ‘old normal’. 

The safety of our colleagues and the public is at the forefront of our planning and careful consideration is being given to redesigning working practices to comply with the current guidance, particularly around physical distancing.

Throughout the period since the start of the lockdown, certain critical services have been maintained, such as kerbside waste collections and the burial service.  

As of June 1st, Household Recycling Centres will open, however, it must be stressed that this is not the return of the old service as the range of materials accepted is significantly reduced and no access is permitted without pre-booking. 

So, the service will be there, but your experience will be very different compared to previously.  We are not alone in adopting this approach, and all of us are very much aware how everyday experiences are markedly different than they used to be.

Our next priority is to start grounds maintenance, which has been almost entirely suspended since March 23rd.

Again, this will not be a return to the old service at this stage, but a new level of provision which takes account of the current restrictions in place.

In developing our plans, we have tried to prioritise activities that we know are most important to our communities. With that in mind the initial grounds maintenance focus will be on our cemeteries. 

As of June 1st, works to improve the grounds maintenance and general appearance of cemeteries will commence. Initially this will be targeted at our larger sites - mainly within larger towns – but extending out to smaller sites as we can.

The second priority will be to address the grounds within Council Care Homes and Sheltered Housing complexes. Residents have been on lockdown for many weeks and we hope that improving their views will, in some little way, make a positive impact.

We do understand that general open space, particularly grassed areas, is not currently in the condition that you would normally expect. However, it is unlikely that we will have capacity to carry out widespread grass cutting, particularly to high amenity standard. 

Plans are being developed to address these areas in a different manner, with the creation of additional “cut paths” to make physically-distanced exercise and recreation easier. To-date, we do not have a firm date for this work commencing as this will depend on progress with the other aspects. 

Further plans are being considered for other areas such as play parks, sports pitches, school grounds, gardens and core paths in the coming weeks as we progress through the Route Map.

COVID-19 is impacting on all of us and changing the way we currently live our lives, whether that be in our social time or at work. Councils are no different, with COVID-19 restrictions having a substantial impact on how work is done, and ultimately what we are able to do.  

Prior to the lockdown we worked alongside some fabulous community groups, and individuals, to ensure that cemeteries, play parks and general public open space was maintained to a high standard. 

It was unfortunate that during the initial stages of lock down we were not in a position to encourage these groups to continue their activities.

As we move to Stage 1 of the Route Map, we are actively encouraging existing groups to get in touch with us so that, together, we develop plans to improve the condition of community open space.  

If you have not been involved in this before, we would also encourage you to get in touch.  We can put you in in touch with a local group or assist you in setting up one of your own.

We understand this is a fairly big ask of you, but we all want to live in attractive towns and villages and we need your help to ensure that your town has the standard of open space that you want to live in. 

Should you wish to offer assistance in this regard please in the first instance contact us through email on greenspace@aberdeenshire.gov.uk or call our Contact Centre on 03456 081208.