Wroughton Parish Council abandon Wichelstowe to the long grass

Photo of the canal with long grass on the banks
The grass along the canal has not been cut since April 2017, when Swindon Borough Council handed responsibility for grass cutting to parish councils.
Wroughton Parish Council have denied being responsible for cutting the grass around East Wichel’s lakes after mounting pressure from East Wichel residents and one of East Wichel’s borough councillors, Nadine Watts.

Two weeks ago we were told by the clerk to Wroughton Parish Council that

The area around the lakes and canals is currently under investigation as it was not on the maps supplied by Swindon Borough Council. I am currently in discussion with them to resolve this issue.

The chair of Wroughton Parish Council, Stephen Harcourt, has now said

As Chair of Wroughton Parish Council I am concerned about the state of the land around the Lakes, however Wroughton Parish Council has never agreed to, or taken any money for, maintaining this land. I spoke to the Head of StreetSmart at Swindon Borough Council and he now accepts that this is the case. Wroughton PC will now put pressure on Swindon to do the necessary maintenance works at this land.

and the clerk to Wroughton Parish Council has said

Swindon Borough Council have confirmed that it did not form part of the transfer of services to Wroughton Parish Council this year.

Wroughton Parish Council were expecting to receive transitional payments from Swindon Borough Council, as they have done for other services they took on from the borough, though long-term Swindon Borough Council were clear they intend to hang on to all the taxes they received, rather than pass them on to parish councils for the services the borough council no longer wanted to provide.

Councillor Harcourt also said

It’s also worth pointing out that East Wichel is in Central South Swindon, whereas the lakes are in Wroughton. Wroughton Parish Council believe that this is wrong and that all of Wichelstowe should be in the same Parish, however Swindon did not accept our arguments when they set up the new Parishes.

Photo of canal with grass mown
How it used to be in 2016, with the grass trimmed on either side of the canal towpath
We can’t see why that’s relevant to whether the grass gets cut. Wroughton Parish Council only wanted Wichelstowe in a single parish if that parish was Wroughton. They also mainly wanted Wichelstowe to be in their parish to fund services in Wroughton village, not Wichelstowe.

To assist the Parish Council in the continued delivery of community services such as the library, Wroughton Parish must retain its current size and the increased financial precept opportunity which will become available as Mid and West Wichel are built out.

There’s no evidence from anything we’ve been told so far by Wroughton Parish Council that they’d have taken any more interest in the cutting of grass beside the lakes and canal if they’d got their hands on East Wichel too.

And whilst Wroughton parish and Swindon borough squabble over who should do the mowing, the grass to the west of East Wichel continues to grow ever longer.

Note: this article has been amended since it was originally published to include additional information provided by the clerk to Wroughton Parish Council and by Wroughton parish councillors. We have also added a quote from Wroughton Parish Council’s submission to the borough council’s community governance review.

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