Wretched trial for 'robo-flop' mower in Honiton - which has been plagued by joyriders and interference

PUBLISHED: 11:12 04 September 2019

Robot lawn mower (stock image). Picture: Getty

Robot lawn mower (stock image). Picture: Getty

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An 'abused' robot lawnmower has been unable to complete a whole night's cutting in Honiton yet - because it is being targeted by vandals every night.

The automatic mower, sited in Allhallows Playing Fields, is tasked with cutting the fields in the early evening.

However, East Devon District Council (EDDC), which announced a robo-mower trial for Exmouth and Honiton in May this year, said interference and vandalism has hampered the machine's ability to do its job.

The revelations come after the Herald was contacted by a frustrated Honiton resident, who dubbed the automatic mower as a 'robo-flop'.

The trial has been lambasted by the resident, who said a 'monkey with a pair of nail scissors' could do a better job than the mower in Honiton.

The resident said: "After several months of on-site trials it has proved to be a complete failure.

"The machine is completely useless. It does not cut the grass.

"It gets stuck in the middle of the park. The kids use it for joyriding or target practice. It certainly does not stop at obstacles.

"It wanders around the park like a drunk on a Saturday night.

"It cannot even take the top off the dandelions."

The automated machines are being trialled in Manor Gardens and Withycombe Pitches in Exmouth and at Allhallows in Honiton during the 2019 growing season (spring to autumn).

The spokesman said: "To date, since the start of the trial the mower has not yet been able to complete a whole night's cutting due to interference.

"It was programmed to come out early evening around 8pm, but it turns out this is when children have been abusing it.

"We then changed it to come out after midnight to try to avoid it being vandalised, but people were still preventing it from completing its job."

When EDDC announced the trial, it said it hoped to save 25 per cent on fuel, consumables and staff time.

However, Honiton's mower is to be relocated after a wretched trial period.

A spokesman said: "The mower we have been trialling in Allhallows has been tampered with by people and ridden on by youngsters every night of its operation, which stops it running.

"The mower then has to wait until one of the team is available to reset it, so that it can start cutting again.

The trial has been a success in Exmouth, EDDC said, with four mowers being trialled cutting large areas of grass 'efficiently' and 'without interference'.

Speaking in January this year, a council spokesman said: "If the trial is a success, which will be gauged after a year and reported back to cabinet, we would be looking to submit a capital bid to purchase more robot mowers for sites, which were appropriate."

The situation is not so rosy in Honiton though.

The council spokesman said: "Last week, we discovered that local children had been sheltering in the mower's shed and had ripped up the boundary wiring from the ground.

"As a result of this we are now looking for a more suitable location, as clearly areas near Honiton town centre, where there is high activity in the evening or late at night are unsuitable environments for the robot mowers to operate in peace."

Honiton ward member Cllr Luke Jeffrey expressed his disappointment at the vandalism affecting the mowers in Honiton.

He said: "Hopefully a new location can be found where the mowers are safe from interference and are able to work as intended, and Honiton can therefore experience the same success as Exmouth."

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