Overgrown Gardens & Waste Accumulations
Following the lifting of the most recent Covid-19 restrictions on 2nd December 2020 the Prime Minister has announced that West Sussex including Arun District has been placed under Tier 2 restrictions. What this means generally can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-2-high-alert
During this period the Private Sector Housing & Public Health team will however again be undertaking some site visits and property inspections where appropriate precautions are in place including appropriate distancing measures; however, the site visit and inspection regime will be on a more reduced basis than it is normally. Most visits and inspections will require the completion and return of an “Inspection Access Declaration Form” prior to the visit, which will help the team risk assess each situation and whether a site visit or inspection is appropriate and safe to be undertaken.
Any visits arranged during the pandemic may be subject to cancellation or change at short notice if there are changes to National, local or Council-directed policy, legislation or requirements or instigation of further or additional restrictions, or where it is considered that appropriate precautions and/or social-distancing cannot be achieved (and Officers’ have the discretion to end an inspection if they believe that any breaches or precautions aren’t being met). Staff continue to work from home and have limited or delayed access to incoming and outgoing postal mail, and correspondence is best via e-mail where possible.
These changes have been made to protect customers and staff and to try to reduce the likelihood of contracting or spreading the virus during these difficult times, and although this will not be a permanent arrangement it will continue for the foreseeable future.
The following links may be of use:
Accumulations of waste on residential premises and overgrown gardens
Although they look unsightly, there are very few instances where overgrown gardens cause or constitute a Public Health Nuisance or Environmental Health issue.
Vegetation from overgrown gardens can be cut off by the affected property owner to the boundary line and passed back to the overgrown side. You should talk with your neighbour first to discuss any issues and try to find a suitable resolution before cutting back vegetation.
Damage caused by overgrown vegetation (such as damage to boundary fences) is a civil matter and you should seek independent legal advice if this is the case and the Council is unable to assist in these matters.
Overgrown gardens can sometimes provide harbourage for pests such as rats and mice in the short-term; however this usually doesn’t result in an ongoing or long-term infestation which is considered as a public health issue. Most gardens, overgrown or not, will frequently be visited or passed through by rodents as they travel between feeding or nesting sites or during their exploratory movements and a sighting doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem which will become a greater issue or needs any action taking.
Action against a property owner where a public health issue has been identified and confirmed by the Council in regard to overgrown vegetation will only be taken where there is sufficient evidence to show that there is a significant and ongoing rodent infestation caused or exacerbated by the garden’s/land’s condition and where baiting of adjacent properties or land has proved to be ineffective in eliminating the rodent issue. Evidence will be required to show this is the case.
The Council has formal powers including the service of Statutory Notice to deal with issues relating to harbourage of rats and mice. Homeowners are asked to make sure that the condition of their gardens does not provide potential harbourage for pests. If you have rats or mice on your property our Pest Control service will be able to help.
It should be remembered when dealing with overgrown gardens that under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA)(as amended) it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy any bird’s nest (whilst being built or in use) or its eggs (WCA1981, Part 1). It is also an offence (under section 9) to intentionally kill, injure or take wild animals listed on schedule 5. In addition, places used for shelter and protection are safeguarded against intentional damage, destruction and obstruction and animals protected under the relevant part of Section 9 must not intentionally be disturbed whilst occupying those places. As well as birds, species included under this legislation include: slow worms, grass snakes, adders, toads, frogs, newts and bats. Confirmation of the presence of these animals or nesting birds should be established before clearing vegetation.
The Council are unable to deal with invasive non-native or injurious weeds such as Japanese knotweed, or injurious weeds such as common ragwort, however, we have provided a small amount of information below:
Ragwort & Japanese knotweed
Ragwort is a commonly occurring native species of the British Isles. It contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences if eaten by horses and other grazing animals. In most instances the presence of Ragwort is not an issue and plants should be left alone, however in some cases they may have a detrimental or potentially harmful effect. Responsibility for assessing and dealing with the plant is that of the landowner but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Natural England can help to deal with some cases.
Japanese knotweed was introduced as an ornamental plant during the 1800's. Because it does not originate in the UK, it does not compete fairly with our native species and is able to spread quickly. Once established, it shades out native plants by producing a dense canopy of leaves early in the growing season. Although not toxic to humans, animals or other plants, it offers a poor habitat for native insects, birds and mammals. More information is available from DEFRA.
Accumulations of waste within the boundary of a residential property (i.e. in a garden) also seldom provide long-term harbourage for pests such as rodents, although discarded food waste may provide a food source to which they are attracted. Builders’ rubble, domestic white goods, old vehicles, and “non-putrescible” waste (that is waste which is not likely to decay) are not very attractive to rodents and although can look untidy or unaesthetically pleasing, seldom result in a public health issue which the Council will become involved with. Where an ongoing infestation or harbourage of rodents causing a public health issue is identified the Council will investigate and take any appropriate action based on sufficient evidence and where baiting of adjacent properties or land has proved to be ineffective, and evidence will be needed to show this.
The Council’s Pest Control Officers work closely with the Private Sector Housing and Public Health Team in instances where a public health issue has been identified and they may be able to help provide the necessary evidence and confirmation if such a situation exists and whether any further action is required by a property owner or where further intervention may be required by the Council.
If you have a rodent issue or presence on your property (howsoever caused) you may need to have a treatment undertaken and Arun District Council has its own dedicated Pest Control service. The Council’s Pest Control officers are able to undertake a range of pest control functions on domestic and commercial premises including surveys and baiting. Further details of the service and current fees can be found on the Arun District Council website or by calling Arun Direct the Council’s Contact Centre on 01903 737755.
The Council’s Pest Control officers are only able to bait in areas/property where they have been given permission by the landowner and the Council’s Pest Control service does not include issues regarding foxes, gulls or pigeons and we are unable to assist with matters relating to these species.
Issues relating to waste accumulations or fly-tipping on open, public or unadpoted land, alleyways and garage compounds should be reported to the Council’s Cleansing service. If it relates to private or shared ownership alleyways, garage compounds or land you should contact the individual landowner(s).
Matters concerning the refuse collection service or where no confirmed Public Health issue exists, as well as accumulations or fly-tipping not within residential premises’ boundaries (e.g. open ground, public or unadopted land, garage compounds and alleyways should be reported to email@example.com.
Unused vehicles in gardens and driveways are unlikely to cause a public health issue. If the property or land is being used to renovate or work on cars commercially, the Planning Department may be interested and you should email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. If vehicles are abandoned on the highway, please alert Operation Crackdown.
In most cases builders’ rubble and building materials do not constitute a public health risk and seldom harbours vermin on a long-term basis. Large accumulations of builders’ waste or rubble may be able to be dealt with by the Planning department email@example.com. Active building sites will often contain building materials, rubble or waste and may be present for some time. Please see the considerate constructors scheme for more information.