Parks, landscapes and biodiversity

Harlow Council working in partnership with Kier Harlow Ltd manage and maintain Harlow’s green spaces, wildlife sites and landscape areas. Kier Harlow Ltd carry out all grounds maintenance and street cleaning operations for the Council to agreed service standards (pdf) in the following areas:

GrassGrass cut in Town Park

When will the Council’s grass outside my house be cut?
Kier Harlow Ltd aim to start cutting Harlow Council’s grass in March but if the ground is wet, they will delay until the machines can get on the ground without damaging the turf. The areas of grass in housing areas are cut thereafter every 17 working days until the end of September. (Open spaces, verges, and sports field adjacent to housing are cut at different rates).

Why is the grass long?
Grassed land away from housing areas, such as highway verges, non-sponsored roundabouts and many open spaces, is cut much less often. The aim in these areas is to allow grasses and plants a greater opportunity to grow and flower, giving a more natural appearance and more variety than close-mown grass. This costs less and will support more plants and insects, which will then support wildlife like insect-feeding birds. Strips alongside roads may need to be cut shorter to maintain sight-lines for traffic; and in some cases grass cutting is deliberately delayed to allow plants of particular wildlife interest to finish their growing cycle.

Why have you stopped grass cutting?
Grass cutting can be suspended during persistent wet weather conditions when there is a likelihood of causing damage, creating an eyesore or when the job cannot be done safety also if it is very dry and the grass is not growing then we come off. Further to this Kier Harlow Ltd come off for two weeks in the summer normally in July to do a summer hedge cutting round.

Why don’t you collect the grass cuttings?
Kier Harlow Ltd do not “box-off” grass cuttings because it takes more time, more equipment and uses more fuel. It is not as environment-friendly as mulching and would more than double the costs of providing the service. Kier have special mulching heads fitted to their mowers to chop up cuttings and leaves so that they will quickly rot back into the ground. Consequently, the ground is improved as nutrients are returned back into the soil. Kier always try to sweep or blow off any cuttings that get on footpaths at the time of cutting.

Can you repair damaged verges caused by car parking?
Please contact an Advisor at Contact Harlow for verge repairs.

When are wildflower meadows cut?
The meadow grass is usually cut once a year, and when the wild flowers have set seed. They are cut in accordance with good ecological practice to improve biodiversity and encourage wildflowers. Some areas will not be cut at all, though a path may be cut though for walking.

Open Space Grass Cutting (pdf)

Weed control

How often is weed spraying carried out on paths and hard surfaces?
Paths, pavements and other hard surfaces are sprayed two times a year; once in May and June, and again in mid August and September. Pedestrian operated spraying equipment is used on pavements, quad bikes or mini-tractors are used on roads and cycle-tracks. Dead weed is not removed but is allowed to breakdown naturally.

What chemicals do you use to kill weeds?
Kier Harlow Ltd use of a Systemic Biodegradable herbicide which is absorbed by leaves and degrades on contact with the soil, the herbicide is applied through a knapsack sprayer or a CDA sprayer. The active ingredient is glyphosphate, often sold in garden centres as “Tumbleweed”. It is inactivated when it comes into contact with soil, it is not easily leached and is unlikely to contaminate ground water. Glyphosate is generally considered by experts to be harmless to the environment.

What precautions are taken when spraying?
Kier Harlow Ltd only use government approved herbicides and our teams are certificated to apply pesticide properly and safely. All the chemicals are securely stored according to regulations and we maintain careful records and use signs when it is appropriate to do so. Sometimes they use ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) or mini-tractors to spray large areas such as cycle tracks and kerbs.

Hedges and brambles

When will the hedge outside my house be cut?
Kier Harlow Ltd will cut Harlow Council's hedges between October and March to avoid disturbing nesting birds. Hedge vegetation will be cut back to behind the backline of the footpath edge and any debris or arisings will be removed and disposed of and backlines will be swept. Obstructions to footpaths and sightlines are cleared during summer where there is any encroachment on a programme throughout the town. Hedge vegetation will be cut back to behind the backline of the footpath edge and any debris or arisings will be removed and disposed of and backlines will be swept. In instances were there are nesting birds any pruning will be done by hand to minimise disturbance.

You’ve cut the side, but when will you cut the top?
All hedge cutting except facing back off footpaths and sightlines in the summer is completed between October and March. Hedges are cut once a year but sides facing onto footpaths causing an obstruction will be faced back in the summer between June and September.


When will the shrub bed outside my house be pruned?
Kier Harlow Ltd start pruning Harlow Council’s shrub beds at the beginning of October and work continues through to March the following year. Kier Harlow Ltd work across the town on a programme, so please bear with us yours could be cut in March rather than October. Shrub bed vegetation will be cut back to behind the backline of the footpath edge and any debris or arisings will be removed and disposed of and the backlines will be swept. Vegetation with sides facing onto footpaths causing an obstruction will be faced back in the summer between June and September.

When will weeds and rubbish in the bed be cleared?
The strategy is to put a chemical weed control on the beds in February/March. This holds back the weed growth. Rubbish is cleared as part of our winter bed maintenance rounds. Any detritus will be removed and adjacent paths swept to the backline. This work starts in October and continues through to March.

How often are the shrubs pruned?
Kier Harlow Ltd have different standards for different shrub beds but if paths or sightlines are obstructed the overhang is removed in the summer months. The number of times shrubs are cut depends on growth but most are pruned comprehensively one more time. This usually takes place over winter because of recommended horticultural practice.

Is it ok to cut back shrubs on Council land so that I can carry out work to my boundary?
Maybe, please arrange a site visit with one of Kier Harlow Ltd, Landscape Officers who will advise you what course of action can be taken. You can arrange a visit by calling 01279 446425.

Shrub Bed Removal 2013-14 (pdf)

Bins and benchesBench in Town park

When are bins in parks emptied?
Bins in parks and open spaces are emptied on a programme. You can report an overflowing bin that needs to be emptied to Contact Harlow.

Can I have a bench seat installed in a park or public place?
If you are prepared to fund the initial purchase and providing there is a suitable site and enough money to maintain it, Harlow Council can accept requests for bench seats in public areas. You will need to agree to conditions about paying and the type of bench to be installed. Please speak to an advisor at Contact Harlow.

I would like to report a bench seat that is broken, how do I get it repaired?
Please contact Kier Harlow Ltd repairs call centre on 01279 446666 and ask them to arrange a repair.


Which trees do Kier Harlow Ltd maintain?
Harlow Council is responsible for all trees on Council owned land including highways, housing and open spaces. Kier Harlow Ltd manages these trees on the Council’s behalf. The Council’s planning department is responsible for all aspects of the administration of Tree Preservation Orders.

I think that a tree is dangerous – what should I do?
If you see a tree on Council or public land that you feel is dangerous and is an immediate risk to public safety, please speak to advisor at Contact Harlow or for out of hours emergencies call Kier Harlow Ltd central control on 01279 446536. Kier Harlow Ltd will inspect the tree as a matter of urgency and take necessary remedial action straight away.

What happens when trees are blown down in storms?
When storms or high winds occur we usually receive many reports of damaged trees that could be dangerous. Kier Harlow Ltd have emergency crews on standby and will assess the level of urgency of each reported problem. We will then draw up an order of priority and deal with them as soon as we can. Out of hours emergency can be made to Kier Harlow Ltd central control on 01279 446536.

A tree is overgrowing a public footway. What can I do?
Kier Harlow Ltd will cut back any obstruction caused by Council trees as a priority. If the tree is privately owned the Council may need to serve a formal notice on the owner to get work done. However, if it looks as if there is likely to be any delay we are likely be instructed to do the work and the Council will recover the cost of the pruning from the owner at a later date.

A Council tree outside my house needs pruning. What should I do?
Register your concerns with Contact Harlow. Kier Harlow Ltd will inspect the tree within four weeks and if we agree that work is needed, we will get it done within the next four months. Kier Harlow Ltd will only carry out tree work where the trees pose a public safety risk or a risk to property. Trees that are dangerous will be prioritised.

My neighbours tree is overgrowing my property. What can I do?
You cannot force your neighbour to prune back any branches overhanging your property. In the first instance it is always best to discuss the problem directly with them but if your neighbour isn’t willing to cut them back, you are entitled to do so yourself. You can only prune back as far as your own boundary. Going beyond is trespass which can be treated as a criminal offence. The branches you prune off are technically your neighbour's property and you have to offer them back, although they do not have to accept them. You are then responsible for disposal.

Do I have a right to light?
No. The only way you can have a legal right to light is if you have had uninterrupted light for at least 20 years which is changed suddenly e.g. by the erection of a new building, trees grow too slowly for this law to be applicable for tree related light issues. We do not prune trees blocking light.

My neighbour is a private landowner and has a tall hedge that shades my house and garden, can I get something done about it?
If there are two or more evergreen trees in a row that affect light levels to a property, then the hedge should be maintained at a specified height. The height varies depending on many criteria. Resolution should be sought between neighbours but Under the High Hedges Legislation You can ask the Council to mediate if a resolution cannot be sought. If the issue is with a Council hedge then we will assess each case individually. More information on high hedges.

I am worried that a tree is damaging my property. What should I do?
Private owners should contact their building insurer and put your allegations of any damage to them. The building insurer should then investigate and write to the owner of the tree. Council occupiers should speak to an advisor at Contact Harlow.

Can I have a tree planted outside my house?
No, not unless you wish to sponsor the tree, then Kier Harlow Ltd will consider planting a tree providing the location is suitable and there are sufficient resources available to do so.

I have a tree covered by a Tree Preservation Order and I want to prune it. What should I do?
You should see the Council’s planning pages for advice

I live in a conservation area and want to prune my tree, what shall I do?
You should notify Harlow Council of the proposed tree works in writing, 6 weeks before the work is started. Please see the Council’s planning pages for advice.

I have a tree covered by a Covenant Control Order and I want to remove it. What should I do?
You should apply for permission to the Covenant Control Officer though Contact Harlow or see Council’s planning pages for advice

There is a tree near my house that is causing a nuisance. What can be done?
We do not generally prune trees for issues relating to falling leaves, fruit or blossom. Problem trees will be considered for removal if they are causing an aggravated nuisance. If surface roots are causing a problem, these can be carefully pruned back if they are no larger than 2.5cm in diameter (the size of a 10p coin) with secateurs. For roots that are larger than this, advice should be sought first from Contact Harlow.

A tree needs routine general maintenance, will you do anything?
We do not carry out ongoing routine maintenance of trees to maintain them at a certain height or to limit their water uptake or for any other general reason. If this is required, consideration will be given to their total removal.

Can I get some advice about trees?
Yes. If you require general advice regarding trees or related issues you can speak to an advisor at Contact Harlow and a tree officer will contact you with free advice.

There is a stump left in the ground after a tree was felled. Will it be removed?
No. Stumps will not be ground out unless they present a specific health and safety issue in or adjacent to a footpath.

Kier Harlow Ltd green waste

How does Kier Harlow Ltd deal with green waste?
Kier Harlow Ltd use mowers to cut grass equipped with special mulching blades, the grass is shredded finely and blown into the turf. This returns nutrients to the soil and helps retains moisture. All other woody cuttings from hedges, shrubs and trees are collected together and shredded, pulverised and composted. This material will be used as a soil conditioner.

What is wrong with dumping garden waste?
Dumping garden waste on a public open space is classed as fly tipping and can lead to prosecution and a fine. It also detracts from the area causing more rubbish to left there and can provide a haven for vermin.

Report an issue

If you wish to report broken glass, dog fouling, fly posting, fly tipping, dumped rubbish, graffiti or litter please report your issue online 

For trees, shrubs or grass maintenance issues on Council land you can contact an Advisor at Contact Harlow.

For out of hours emergencies (for example a fallen tree on a highway) you can contact Kier Harlow Ltd on 01279 446536.

Harlow Town Park

The Town park is 164 acres with scenic landscapes, riverside walks, sculptures, adventure playground, skate park, an outdoor paddling pool and Pets Corner. 

Local nature reserves and wildlife sites

Harlow Marshes nature reserve is located on the northern outskirts of Harlow along the Stort navigation. The Reserve consists of three sites Maymeads Marsh, Marshgate Springs and Parndon Moat Marsh which provides a range of wetland habitats that can be accessed along way marked paths and boardwalks. Maymeads Marsh also has a viewing hide overlooking the main pond. Hawkenbury Meadow Local Nature Reserve is a small site located at the junction of Katherines Way & Paycock Road and provides the ideal location for butterflies. In Harlow there are also 42 County Wildlife Sites and other sites of wildlife interest amongst the green spaces and green wedges across the town.