Problems with plants, trees, weeds and grass

The grass cutting season starts in April and usually finishes at the end of October. It can sometimes extend into November depending on the weather and the grass growth.

Our grass cutting teams work Monday to Friday, from 7am until around 2.30pm, when they return all the machinery to the depot.

We do the following work as part of our normal activities:

  • cut grass verges in spring and summer
  • cut hedges between October and February
  • spray weeds 3 times: in late-spring, mid-summer and late summer to autumn

Grass cutting

The schedule is updated around every four weeks, and the grass is cut around every four weeks, depending on the weather during the spring and summer months. 

This is determined by the time if takes the grass to grow based on average weather conditions. (It may grow slower or faster depending on how dry or wet the weather is.)

If a grass verge is longer than you think it should be, we might be about to cut it. There is a grass cutting programme and this may be one of the last verges to be done. We may also be holding off while there are flowers growing.


We may encounter some delays to our programme, which can be due to several factors, such as the weather, the number of teams we have available to cut the grass, a build-up of litter or longer grass which takes more time to cut.

This month, the Council and Amey Ltd, the highways maintenance contractor, have agreed to a pause in responding to customer requests for grass cutting to allow for a reset of their cyclical cutting programme.

Records show the last six months have been historically some of the wettest in England since records began. This has had a significant impact on the grass cutting programme across Sheffield, which started in April.

The large amount of rainfall this spring has caused the ground to become waterlogged. This has left the grass too wet to be cut as frequently as needed to keep grass growth in check.

This unprecedented level of growth means that many verges in across the city may look untidy whilst the teams catch up.

Amey Ltd are working hard to cut all grass verges across the city as quickly as the weather will allow. Once completed, the planned grass cutting programme will be published here.

If we leave areas of grass uncut

We may not cut certain areas of grass each month. These may be part of the 20% of verges left for wildflowers or areas that are not part of the monthly grass cutting programme, such as sightlines at road junctions that need to be cut more often for safety reasons.

If there is litter after grass cutting

If grass is too long, some litter cannot be seen by our operatives. If this is the case, litter will be collected shortly after the grass has been cut, but not necessarily on the same day.

Grass cuttings that have been left

Cuttings can be left to mulch onto the verge and the teams to try to leaf low as much of they can off the pavements onto the verge but this may not happen immediately after cutting.

in some locations, our operatives cannot walk on higher speed roads to collect grass cuttings due to the risk from traffic. In other areas, they may have been left due to parked cars restricting access.

If you would like to report a drain that has become blocked with grass, a request for it to be cleared can be made at Report a problem with a drain or gulley.

Leaf clearance

Our programme of leaf clearance focuses primarily on areas of the city with higher tree density to try to remove the bulk of leaves before they become a problem. It is dependent on the weather and the amount of leaves that need removing at each location.

We work to the government's code of practice for litter and refuse, which doesn’t require us to remove freshly fallen leaves. However, if leaves begin to mulch down and become a safety hazard in any areas across Sheffield, you can report them to us.

If you are at home and hear the street sweeper arrive on your street, it would be useful if you could move your car out of the way temporarily so that we can carry out an unobstructed clean.

Please do not sweep or blow leaves out of your garden into the highway as this can lead to blocked drains and increase the risk of flooding.

Our programme of leaf clearance ended in February 2024 and will begin again in Autumn 2024.

Trees and hedges

Trees and hedges are the responsibility of the person who owns the land. Whilst most roadside trees are maintained by Streets Ahead hedges are not usually our responsibility, although some in rural areas are.

The Highways Act 1980 (section 130) places a duty on us to remove obstructions on the highway. In some cases, if a tree or hedge is growing into the highway, we may write to you and ask that you cut it back. If the landowner fails to do this, then they can be taken to court or we can do the work and bill them. This only happens in rare circumstances when no other approach has been successful.

In some instances, we may need to remove overhanging trees or hedges at short notice without giving prior notice to the landowner. However, we expect that this would only occur where the vegetation poses a safety risk or prevents urgent work being carried out on the highway.

If a tree we own interferes with a phone line or electricity cable you need to contact the relevant utility company. If you have concerns about the safety of the tree, please contact us.

We are not required to remove trees or prune them if complaints are received about falling fruit or bird mess.


We aim to keep the following weed free:

  • perimeters of buildings
  • shrub and rose beds
  • the base of hedges that belong to Sheffield Homes
  • channels and edges of roads and footpaths
  • obstacles in verges and along the bottom of railings

Glyphosate is currently the most efficient product for killing weeds whilst being cost effective and easy to apply. 

In August 2021, a decision was taken by the Council’s Co-operative Executive to review and reduce the use of glyphosate on land managed by us in a controlled and targeted way. Since 2020 our usage of glyphosate has reduced and will remain below that level of usage until 2025, during which period we continue to actively pursue ways to reduce it further.

In order to keep the frequency and amount of glyphosate used as low as possible on highway areas, we only spray weeds on a reactive basis once the weed has physically emerged, so we never spray proactively.

Why we use glyphosate

Whilst we continue to look for alternatives to using glyphosate, it's currently approved for use in the UK until December 2025 and there is a section about this on the HSE website. The UK has a rigorous approvals process for weed killers. Legally enforceable conditions of use are imposed on the way products can be applied, to ensure the public are not exposed to harmful levels. The risks associated with the use of weed killers in parks and on the highway are considered as part of the authorisation process.

We have a legal obligation to manage certain species of weeds under the Weeds Act 1959 as well as a legal requirement under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for managing invasive species.

Under Section 41 Highways Act 1980 we have a duty to maintain the public highway, and effectively manage any hazards that may cause a member of the public to trip or fall.

The responsible use of weed killers can help deliver substantial benefits for society including management of conservation areas, invasive species and flood risks; access to high quality sporting facilities; and safe public spaces, industrial sites and transport infrastructure. 

We try to minimise the amount of glyphosate we use by using Controlled Droplet Application (CDA) systems which only apply a tiny amount of glyphosate in a very controlled manner to the leaves of the plant. We never blanket spray Glyphosate as it's not a preventative weed killer so only works on actively growing weeds which are already emerging and green.

Our operatives use heavily diluted glyphosate with a significant amount of added water. They also use ultra-low-drift nozzles to deliver the spray in a controlled manner, and all spraying equipment used is subject to routine testing to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible.   

Impact on humans and pets

In wider society glyphosate is extensively used in food production, such as in wheat crops for bread and breakfast cereals and is approved for use in food production by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which stated that glyphosate is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.’

We acknowledge that there is great deal of concern nationally over the World Health Organization’s cancer agency (IARC) declaring that glyphosate is a ‘probable human carcinogen’ – meaning it could potentially cause cancer. The conclusion was based on observational studies, animal studies and test tube studies.

The current WHO classification of risk of cancer to humans from using glyphosate is in the same category as someone eating red meat or working night shifts, something many people routinely do in their everyday lives without thinking twice.  

When glyphosate is used appropriately, in line with the label recommendations and utilising safe working practices, national specialist and regulatory bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive are confident that glyphosate is both safe and efficacious.

Play areas and hospitals

We do not carry out glyphosate treatments in the close vicinity of healthcare facilities or play areas. 

How we are reducing glyphosate use

To keep the frequency and amount of glyphosate used as low as possible on highway areas, we only spray weeds on a reactive basis once the weed has physically emerged, so we never spray proactively.

This is currently done three times per year using controlled droplet application (CDA) technology to prevent spray drift and using the absolute minimum amount of product possible to achieve results.

We continue to pursue a joint glyphosate reduction strategy, which started in 2022. This reduced the use of Glyphosate and set out several new commitments for the 2022 to 2025 seasons.

As part of this reduction strategy, our Highways Maintenance Division (HMD) has already stopped using glyphosate in shrub beds, floral displays, rose beds, hedgerows and planted areas as well as stopping mowing strip spraying in highways verges. By the end of 2022, HMD has also committed to:

  • a review and trial of any new alternative products as they come to market and become licensed for hard surfaces
  • switching to a single application of Flazasulfuron on soft surfaces (such as grass verges under street signs and around lamp columns) next year rather than our current practice of applying Glyphosate three or four times.
  • delivering 'weed killer free' alternate methodologies such as wider use of our weed ripper machine and other mechanical sweepers
  • encouraging residents to pull weeds out on their street to help further reduce usage on the highway
  • trialling a glyphosate free area in Brincliffe, Sheffield, where no chemical-based weed killers will be used during 2022, and consulting with residents via Citizenspace to assess and review impact and feedback (this has now ended and no further glyphosate free trails are planned currently)

Housing Services have committed to:

  • undertaking two glyphosate free trials in the Longley and Gleadless areas – exact details to be discussed and agreed

Parks and Countryside have committed to:

  • undertaking glyphosate free trials in two cemeteries (Norton and Beighton) in 2022
  • not using glyphosate on permeable surfaces from November 2021 (grassed areas, shrub and flower beds, hedgerows, around trees and obstacles, hardcore paths with the exception of treating invasive weeds and tree stumps)

Removal of weeds by hand

Whilst we do adopt hand pulling weeds in some specific settings, this approach is very time consuming and financially unviable to use across the entire city. Weeds must be removed from the root to ensure they are effectively destroyed and so, each weed must be dug out carefully before pulling.

Alternative products to Glyphosate we have tried

Amey, our Highways Maintenance Department and Parks Department have all jointly trialled a number of alternative products and methodologies over the course of the last two years, including hot foam treatment (ie Foamstream), heat treatment, weed ripping using our weed ripper machine and some degree of hand weeding.

In addition to weed spraying, we employ completely chemical-free options such as a fleet of small sweepers which remove silt and debris three times per year, a mechanical ‘weed ripper’ and teams dedicated to 'siding out' footpath edges. Some alternative methods, such as not treating perimeters of parks and open spaces, adding meadows, and additional tree planting to further encourage habitat and biodiversity, are also being explored. 

We will carry out further trials in 2024, in conjunction with Foamstream, to assess the efficacy of the latest version of their chemical free treatment method. We are also expecting delivery of a new weed ripping machine, which we believe will bring better results during 2024.

How other products and methods compare to glyphosate

At present, many of the main chemical alternatives to glyphosate are not licensed or legal to use on hard surfaces such as pavements, which makes them unsuitable for use on the highway network.

During 2020 we trialled Acetic Acid, Pelargonic Acid and Flazasulfuron alongside traditional glyphosate treatments solely on verges on a major road in Sheffield to assess their ability to control weeds in these areas.

The Flazasulfuron treatment was incredibly effective and one single application produced outstanding weed control for the full year from a single application. Pelargonic Acid and Acetic Acid have both shown poor results, in many instances promoting growth rather than killing off the intended vegetation when compared to the untreated control areas (ie areas which were not treated with any weed killer at all to see what natural growing conditions like).

We plan to undertake further trials of Foamstream in 2024 on hard surfaces such as pavements.

Where glyphosate is sourced from

Our glyphosate is sourced through a tendering process. The current suppliers are Rigby Taylor, Sherriff Amenity and Nomix.

Amount of glyphosate used

Our Highway Maintenance Division used a total of 3570.95 litres of glyphosate-based product during 2020. For highway operations, these products are purchased as ready mixed, ready diluted controlled droplet application (CDA) products containing significant volumes of both water, adjuvant and carrier, so this figure does not represent 'neat' chemical use of glyphosate.

Parks and Public Realm services used a total of 124,2kg of glyphosate (as an active ingredient) during 2020.

Bereavement Services used 640 litres of Blade herbicide, which contains glyphosate, in 16 cemeteries during 2020. It's an oil-based herbicide applied as a droplet through a battery-operated lance.

Housing currently holds approximately 40 litres of glyphosate which is predominately used on hard surfaces ie footpaths.

What will you do if Glyphosate is banned

We are proactively working towards achieving a significant reduction in our glyphosate use across all our services for 2022 to 2025. Further Street Scene and waste committee meetings to discuss Glyphosate use are planned in February 2024. 

Once finalised, our Glyphosate Reduction Strategy will outline how we will continue to reduce glyphosate use and explore and implement alternative methods.

To date, chemical alternatives to glyphosate have shown limited success rates with the exception of Flazasulfuron. However, like almost all other chemical-based alternatives currently on the market, this are not licensed for use on hard surfaces such as footpaths. Should glyphosate be banned in the UK, we would need to adopt the methods and alternatives which are showing the most promising and effective outcomes.

During this period of reducing glyphosate and trialling alternatives, you may notice changes to the amount or size of weeds in your neighbourhood. 

Treatment of invasive weeds and tree stumps

For invasive weeds, such as Japanese Knotweed, we will still need to use glyphosate and will apply this using the stem injection method to reduce and control the application. 

The only other current alternative is to dig 8 to 10 metre deep holes and then take all of the soil to specialist disposal sites which incurs huge costs and creates hazards on the highway. This method would also be disruptive to wildlife in the area and have a much larger carbon footprint compared to spraying.  

For tree stumps we use 'eco plugs' which are sealed, self-contained glyphosate plugs which are hammered into the stump, eliminating the risk of spray drift or product leaching.

Environmental impact of using alternative methods of weed management

Currently, many of the chemical alternatives to glyphosate are not licensed for use on hard surfaces such as pavements and roads, whilst their impact on nature, waterways and the environment are fully studied, assessed and understood by the relevant regulatory bodies. 

Other alternatives such as FoamStream use large volumes of water and require additional generators and vehicles. Although they have been continually improving their offer, and we saw a smaller system in 2022 and they have a new system we are looking forward to seeing in 2024.

Options such as mechanical weed ripping continue with an improved piece of equipment due for delivery in 2024 for use on the highways. This method can be detrimental in some instances as it can be abrasive to the road surface and break it away prematurely and damage column and sign bases, so this is not the only solution.

What we maintain as Streets Ahead (Amey) and where to query

Grass cutting on the highway network is carried out by Streets Ahead (Amey). This is on behalf of the Council. They maintain approximately 2.9 million square meters of grass, which includes:

  • grass verges 
  • along roads
  • on traffic islands
  • around central reservations
  • sight lines

Areas that are not on the highway network

For queries about grass cutting in Sheffield’s parks and open spaces, go to Parks and green spaces.

For queries about grass cutting in Sheffield’s crematoria go to Cemeteries.

for queries about grass cutting in Council housing areas, go to Housing Estate services. If your query relates to housing associations, get in touch with the relevant housing association.

Grass around trees, street furniture and other obstacles

Yes, our teams will use a strimmer to cut grass around any trees or other obstacles in the grass they are cutting.

Looking after the grass verges directly outside your house

You will need to apply for a S142 licence to do so through to see if this is possible.

Norton Nursery

We provide floral decorations from our Norton Nursery.

It has a reputation for providing high quality flower displays on sponsorship sites or to enhance the look of shops, offices and buildings, including floral towers, baskets and plant troughs.

It also offers a full back up service of watering, feeding and dead plant replacement.

Landscape design

We design shrub and tree planting schemes to complement new buildings or enhance the look of existing sites.

Design schemes are individually tailored and include shrubs that flower at different times of the year, trees, evergreens and plants with varied foliage to provide seasonal interest, grassed areas and hard landscaping.

Please phone Norton Nursery on 0114 274 9654.

Contact Streets Ahead

Floor 2
Howden House
1 Union Street
S1 2SH

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