West Lothian Council will take action against householders with scruffy gardens in Bathgate, councillors have been promised.
The promise came after Labour’s Harry Cartmill told the Local Area Committee that the number of overgrown gardens in the town was a sign that “society was de-evolving”.
He followed that up this week when the town’s housing manager, Graeme McKee addressed the latest meeting of the committee.
Joining the committee for the first time were newly elected councillors Labour’s Tony Pearson and Pauline Stafford for the SNP.
Councillor Cartmill said: “One of things I noticed throughout the town, especially in Glen Mavis, and up where I live, and that’s the amount of gardens in council properties that are unkempt.
“But there’s many beyond that. There’s some have rubbish dumps in the gardens, hedges haven’t been cut, grass hasn’t been cut for years.
“I know it’s part of your tenancy agreement that you have to keep gardens tidy. Now that officers are back more or less working as normal I wonder if a focus can be put on this.
“It really brings down the area when you see someone looking after their garden and looking after their property and their neighbour’s house is looking literally like a rubbish dump.
“It really brings down areas. I’ve had a lot of complaints about it, but I have seen it with my own eyes many times.”
He added: “We’re not expecting every garden to look like the Beechgrove Garden or some of these shows on TV, but just enough that they would cut the grass, keep the hedges down and certainly don’t dump rubbish within the gardens.”
McKee said: “I would agree. Not to try and put the blame on Covid for everything but part of the estates officers’ role during the summer months is to do walkabouts to identify this.
“Again that’s not been something that’s been happening over the past two years and we have been relying on people making complaints directly to us for us to take action.
“I’m happy to say that the estates officers here at Bathgate have been instructed to carry out walkabouts again. I’m hoping that this is something that’s going to be picked up a lot sooner and then we take identified properties through our garden process.”
Cartmill said: “That’s great to hear. Hopefully that will make a difference over the next year or so.”
McKee added that estates officers had already started getting out in the ward as working practices began to return to normal.
The Bathgate team is now fully staffed with two new community housing officers after the team was understaffed for a number of years.
Andy Johnston from the NETs team added that tenants would be lettered about issues and asked to tidy up the garden themselves.
If they refuse, the team’s garden maintenance crew would carry out the work, with a charge being added to the tenants’ rent.
This was the system before the pandemic and Mr Johnston said he hoped the housing department and NETs could re-establish it.