Parish Lengthsman initiative set to expand
Friday, 01 March 2013
A successful Parish Lengthsman trial in Hampshire has led to the development of the scheme for rolling out in other areas of the county and a proposal to extend the scheme to 43 parishes.
The role of the Parish Lengthsman has been re-introduced to give local communities more say in the upkeep of their surroundings and to play an active role in the highways service to improve their village environments, while adding value to the Council's planned maintenance programmes.
Parish Lengthsmen operated until the late 1960s in Hampshire, undertaking work to keep the sections of highway they were responsible for in a good and tidy condition.
They generally worked alone using hand tools. Today, those carrying out the Lengthsman role have modern tools and cleaning equipment and their tasks can include ditch clearing, maintenance of grass verges, sign cleaning and any other minor maintenance issues that local communities identify as important to them.
Recognising the benefits of community involvement, the County Council works with the parishes, in consultation with the Hampshire Association of Local Councils. The Council's highways teams work closely with local parish co-ordinators to avoid duplication of scheduled maintenance work by the County Council.
While there is some flexibility in how each parish can operate its Parish Lengthsman service, the main principle is that small highways jobs can be locally managed and carried out more efficiently by employing a dedicated resource. Parishes can either employ their own Lengthsman or commission a Lengthsman service from the County Council's term highways maintenance contractor, Amey.
A decision on the proposal to extend the scheme will be made at the Environment and Transport Decision Day on 5 March. Councillor Mel Kendal, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Environment and Transport, said: "With today's volume of traffic and speed of travel, as well as higher standards for safe working on highways, a great deal of our maintenance work requires heavy duty mechanical equipment operated by small teams of highways staff. However, there are many tasks that can be done very effectively at a local level.
"In the initial trial, ten parish councils in Meon Valley and Test Valley were given a budget of £1,000 each for work such as minor drainage clearance, grass clearance from the back of footways and sign cleaning. Other parishes in the New Forest and Winchester districts joined the trial in its second year and I'll be considering the lessons learned from those trials and the benefits before I determine whether to extend the scheme to other parishes and towns in the county."
James Morrice, who co-ordinated the Parish Lengthsman work on behalf of Corhampton and Meonstoke Parish Council, said: "This has worked successfully in our parish and we have found it to be valuable and beneficial for the villages. At the start of the year we had a backlog of minor maintenance work from hedge trimming and verge cutting, to clearing highways drainage and footpaths. With the exception of two jobs that are not finished because of the snow and flooding, a very long list of low level highways maintenance work has been completed and I do hope that the funding can be agreed to continue this scheme in the next financial year."
- Read the decision day report for the list of parishes interested in signing up to the Parish Lengthsman scheme