FURIOUS residents have called on the council to mow a series of grass verges after a street’s green areas have been turned into a “disgusting neglected wasteland”.

Residents of Shirley Drive in Hove say that a rewilding project by Brighton and Hove City Council, which has seen some verges go unmown to increase biodiversity, has caused people to be bitten by ticks from knee-length grass and has ruined the area’s lawns.

In an email to the council seen by The Argus, Hove Park resident Dr Barbara Odell said that the verges are “out of control”.

She said: “I have lived in Shirley Drive for quite some time and I have never ever witnessed such deterioration of what was a beautiful residential area at a time when our council tax has never been higher.

“It is a disgrace and the state of these verges is becoming a definite health hazard.”

Grass and weeds along some parts of the road have grown to such an extent that a bench near a bus stop is unusable.

The Argus: Residents of Shirley Drive standing near a bench engulfed by an overgrown grass vergeResidents of Shirley Drive standing near a bench engulfed by an overgrown grass verge

A letter penned by residents along the road echoed this sentiment, expressing concerns about the risk of Lyme disease from ticks and claiming that a “plague of very unpleasant insects” could be totally uncontrollable later this summer.

The letter said: “Far from encouraging wildflowers, we have over-grown seeded rough grasses, thistles, alders, along with other invading species which are now reaching heights of over four feet without a single butterfly in sight.

“We already have had reports of being affected by ticks, and the long seeding grasses can cause allergies such as hay fever, which can affect lung conditions like asthma and COPD.

“Shirley Drive used to be one of Hove’s most beautiful drives and has been now reduced to a disgusting neglected wasteland thanks to our irresponsible council which we the public have entrusted in our good faith via our council tax.”

The Argus: Residents of Shirley Drive have called on the council to mow the grass verges as soon as possibleResidents of Shirley Drive have called on the council to mow the grass verges as soon as possible

Hove Park councillor Samer Bagaeen said: “This part of the city appears targeted by the council for non-cutting compared to other parts of the city, like Surrenden.

“It is making life very difficult for residents and public transport users who are unable to access seating at bus stops on Shirley Drive, making life impossible for those with buggies, wheelchairs and crutches.

“The Green/Labour council trial of reducing verge cuttings is deeply unpopular with residents. In many cases, residents are reporting no cutting at all taking place. Residents feel they are not getting value for money from their council tax.”

The Argus: Residents have expressed concerns about insects and ticks around the overgrowing vergesResidents have expressed concerns about insects and ticks around the overgrowing verges

The news comes after Councillor Dawn Barnett said she had been “inundated” with phone calls from angry residents after overgrown weeds on pavements in Hangleton have forced people to walk in the road to get around.

In an all councillor briefing seen by The Argus, Brighton and Hove City Council apologised for the situation and said: “We are aware that councillors are being contacted by some residents concerned about the pavement weeds at the moment, as well as long grass on verges in some areas.

“We appreciate that there are more weeds on the pavements than we’d hope there to be at present - and that we need to be ensuring that the weeds and tree base growth does not cause a problem for mobility issues.”

The message outlines how seasonal recruitment has only managed to hire nine of the 26 staff needed, with only one crew of three staff carrying out weeding instead of two crews and six staff.

The Argus: One resident demonstrates the height of some of the grass by a post box along the roadOne resident demonstrates the height of some of the grass by a post box along the road

The briefing continued: “This reflects the wider problems we are having recruiting sufficient seasonal staff for our streets service. As many of our seasonal staff used to come from European countries for the summer, the ability of European nationals to work in the UK after Brexit, alongside the pandemic, is continuing to have an impact on our recruitment.”

It also said that the council has had difficulty getting equipment to improve the efficiency of weed removal and reminded councillors that Brighton and Hove City Council voted to end the use of glyphosate for weedkilling in 2019, claiming it was “made clear as part of the discussions that this would result in more visible weeds”.

The briefing to councillors said the administration has employed two teams of contractors to focus on street weed removal, set up contractors to remove excess growth and weeds around tree bases, and instructed contractors to assist with verge cutting.

Some of the contractors have already begun work, with others set to start within the next fortnight.

The council is also continuing to research alternative methods and new technologies for weed removal without the use of glyphosate.

“We are sorry this is creating a problem for residents and councillors. We hope this reassures you that we are doing all we can to try and get back on top of the issue and will continue to push hard on it,” the briefing concluded.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: "We know some residents are concerned about the grass and plants on some verges in the city currently being longer than usual.

"We recognise that some of them are longer than usual and we apologise for this. However, we have also had a lot of positive feedback from other residents who are pleased to see grasses and plants being allowed to grow and flower.

"Grass verges and roadside nature reserves can be an oasis for nature. They are home to almost half of the UK's more than 700 wildflower species.

"With this in mind, we recently agreed a verge management plan that will see the number of verge cuts reducing to help improve biodiversity. We are also piloting a project called Wilder Verges on 25 distinct sites across the city, funded by Natural England.

"The key problem we're facing with verge cutting is difficulties recruiting enough staff to actually do the job.

"We have now commissioned contractors to carry out verge cutting. Shirley Drive is on their list of tasks, but we can't give specific dates at this stage."

Those interested in working for the council can find more information on the council's website.