Robotic grass cutting could help reduce traffic disruption on the A689 in Hartlepool

Council chiefs are to look at the possibility of implementing ‘robot grass cutting’ for areas off the A689 in the future.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 4:45 pm
Robotic grass cutting could help reduce traffic disruption on the A689 in Hartlepool as council chiefs explore a new proposal. Copyright Google Maps.

Hartlepool Borough Council officers said they would be exploring the viability of the proposals as part of its neighbourhood services savings programme for 2020/21.

Two options were discussed by councillors and officers, one involving an operator nearby controlling the grass cutting technology, and another where the equipment is programmed to cut a particular area.

Officers said meetings will be held with neighbouring authorities about the technology.

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Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher. Picture by FRANK REID

Denise McGuckin, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said if it was brought in it could prevent lanes having to be closed for grass cutting and ease traffic issues.

She said: “We are exploring the possibility of robot grass cutters, some authorities have introduced that, we know some have introduced it and removed it, and we want to understand why they removed it.

“We are looking at that, and if there is a way that we can purchase some robot grass cutters for operations that would prevent lane closures then we would do that.

“We need to make sure we’ve identified all the risks, all the benefits. I don’t want to rush into something like that.”

Councillors on the Neighbourhood Services Committee had mixed responses to the idea of robot grass cutting technology being used.

Coun Marjorie James said: “I’ve seen two models, one where somebody would stand on the verge side of the dual carriageway but they would be cutting the central reservation, so they would have an operative.

“The one I’ve seen up in Alnwick [Gardens] don’t have that, so they’re connected in another way, so they’re programmed to do a regular route.

“If we were to move to something like that, there is no reason why grass verges couldn’t be cut during the hours of darkness.

“If it’s programmed, that doesn’t require an operative, they could be cut any time of the day and any day of the week. We need to know which ones would work best for Hartlepool.”

Mrs McGuckin said meetings over the issue are in the diary and updates would given as soon as possible.

However she added she would have ‘some concerns’ about introducing the robots out of hours in case of any malfunctions.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said he was against the technology being used.

He said: “Personally I wouldn’t like to see robots being used, maybe I’m just old fashioned.

“I just think it should be the last resort. I’m one of these people who will refuse to go to an electronic checkout, and I think we should try and avoid robots and protect workforces.

“I think we’re possibly over-thinking it a bit too much. In reality if you go elsewhere I don’t think we have a major traffic problem.”