Wednesday 23 August 2017

Brent to save £0.45m annually by letting large sections of parks turn into meadow land

Yellow areas will become 'meadow'
I can reveal that large sections of Brent parks which are currently lawn will be turned into 'meadow land' as a result of changes in the Council's contact with Veolia. The reduction in maintenance will produce annual  'savings' of £450,000. 

In response to my query about the policy an officer gave this response:
I'm unable to provide maps for all the affected parks at this stage as we're currently updating all of them but a list of sites is provided below:

·        Roundwood Park
·        Neasden Recreation Ground
·        Gladstone Park
·        Barham Park
·        King Edward Park
·        Silver Jubilee Park
·        Roe Green
·        One Tree Hill
·        Woodcock Park
·        Preston Park
·        Lindsay Park
·        Sudbury Court Open Space
·        Elmwood
·        St Raphael’s Open Space
·        Northwick Park
·        Church Lane Recreation Ground
·        Tokygnton Recreation Ground
·        Kenton Grange
·        Leybourne Road Open Space
·        Eaton Grove
·        Abbey Estate
·        Tookey Close

I can confirm Veolia will continue to maintain the sites as part of the Council’s Public Realm Contract.  The current plans are to allow the various grass species to grow, with the meadow areas being cut once a year in order to prevent self sett trees, brambles, etc. taking hold.  Grass cuttings will be collected as part of this.

The case for creating wildlife havens was not the specific subject of any committee reports; they are covered as part of the need to achieve contract savings in 2017/18 as agreed under item 7 at the Full Council meeting on 27 February.  Further details, including minutes of the meeting, are available on the Council’s website 
The changes are part of a £900k cut. The Officer's budget report stated:
Any change in operations may be noticeable to residents used to familiar and established work practices. However, these changes are specifically intended to improve environmental standards overall.
Officers have made an attempt to justify the change on environmental grounds:

These grass meadow areas will now be cut once per year as part of a number of programmes that aim to make the borough cleaner and greener.  Letting the grass grow aims to create wildlife havens, increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions. This programme will be supported by the launch of the Brent Wildlife Watch website later this summer. All parks will retain some areas that will be kept maintained in a traditional way.
There has been no public consultation about the change and no reports by specialist horticulturalists or biodiversity officers that could be scrutinised by councillors of the public. These are changes that will change the appearance of our parks substantially.

Brent does have meadow land at Fryent Country Park (actually certified organic) and the Welsh Harp Open Space but these are long established - turning formal lawns into 'meadow' just by letting the grass grow long  is a different proposition. It does does not create an environmentally friendly wild flower meadow of the type that can be seen at Westminster University, Northwick Park.

It is noteworthy that despite the claim that 'wildlife havens' will be created there is no mention of wildflowers, a vital component of such havens. Proper wildflower meadows have to be created and diligently maintained as this publication from Newcastle City Council states LINK

Since the end of the Second World War, Britain's wildflower meadows have decreased by more than 90 per cent. This has been due to changes in farming practice, urban expansion and development.

Although we cannot recreate traditional wildflower meadows in a short period of time, it is possible to create species rich grasslands and meadows, which are beneficial to our native wildlife in the urban environment.

There is no simple strategy for creating wildflower meadows in urban environments. The type of meadow created and method used to create and manage them will vary with conditions, habitat and budget. It is extremely important to remember that all grasslands and meadows require some form of management for them to be successful. If areas of fertile (nutrient rich) grassland are left unmanaged they will rapidly become overgrown with a few dominant species of tall grasses, nettles, docks, brambles, thistles etc. The wildflowers soon disappear as they become smothered by the more dominant species and deprived of light, water and space.
Creation of such meadows requires investment while Brent's aim is to save money. Unless the Council can provide more detail of their strategy I am afraid  I think we will end up with overgrown areas dominated by a single species like many a neglected back garden.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like ignorant spin coming from Brent Council Officers again doesn't it Martin. These people probably can't even manage a window box successfully. Why don't we save even more money by no longer employing them if all they do is to commission meaningless reports and to talk rubbish.

Anonymous said...

'Dustbins will now be collected once per year. Letting the piles of rubbish grow aims to create wildlife havens, increase biodiversity, particularly in the rodent, seagull, feral canine and maggot communities, and reduce carbon emissions from polluting bin lorries going forward'.

'Meadow land'! Priceless.

Mike Hine

Philip Grant said...

If Brent Council really wanted to create meadowland that would provide wildlife havens, they would be learning the lessons from the Masons Field restoration project, carried out several years ago with Barn Hill Conservation Group. See:

All that Brent is doing here is cutting the bill they pay to Veolia, by NOT cutting the grass in large areas of our parks and open spaces (apart from once a year).

What the Council will create in Brent's once proud parks is wasteland, not meadowland, unless they work with local schools and community groups, and invest some of the £450k saving to help create some real meadow areas.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like Brent Council believes that these Meadow areas grow like magic and require no tending or aftercare. How wrong can they be. No doubt Veolia will decide to cut the areas when they are in full flower (should they ever reach that point and not become scrubland full of tin cans and litter.) Grass verges are cut at the wrong time and the base of trees are frequently strimmed at the same time with the resultant damage. Meadow areas require appropriate maintenance in order to thrive and provide habitats for wildlife. Unfortunately, I can't see that Brent Council or Veolia have the expertise,knowledge or interest to maintain them. Clearly this initiative is entirely down to saving money. It may look good on paper but in reality it is a cop-out.

Unknown said...

Forgive me for what I am about to say if anyone thinks I'm going crazy for my suggestions, but surely with the millions the Brent Council are receiving in CIL from all the Developers, the Twin Towers which are under construction at Park Lane junction with the High Road the contribution is approx £5 million. I am also aware that £119K has been ringfenced for expenditure for a project in the Park as part of a S106 agreement, by the developer as compensation for amenity space on the development, surely this could be better spent in going back to the old way and having a Park Warden and/or refurbishment of the Pavilion, for the only Municipal Park in Wembley. After all the Council purchased these 26 acres to compensate the residents of Wembley for all the development at Wembley Park back in 1914 when it was developed the Stadium and area for the Great British Empire Exhibition in 1925/6. Collins Lodge, once the Park Wardens home has been empty for the last 10 years, they could have housed anyone of the council waiting list there if they had any sense, at best someone who would be willing to maintain the park and lock the gates, get rid of the anti-social behaviour, drinkers, drug dealers and the like. They supposedly spent £300,000 to solve the drainage problem and create 2 football pitches and a cricket pitch, but are now claiming they are saving money be leaving the rest of the park to fallow land. This makes no sense whatsoever. I am very disillusioned, the fact that being part of Friends of King Eddies Park who campaigned vociferously against any building in the Park, and the fact it is supposedly protected by Fields In Trust makes a mockery of the latter, surely we should mount a campaign to be able to stop this nonesense or ensure that if they want to create a meadow environment it should be done properly. It is abundantly clear that Veolia are not up to the job by the standard of maintenance currently being undertaken. I am confident a Park Warden could be found for £20K p.a. which is a much better investment. People are abandoning this park in droves, so I doubt wildlife will be wishing to set up home, as animals have far more sense than Brent Councillors or Officers who are making these decisions. Once again I will reiterate that Wembley Central Ward has below 50% green space for the number of residents 20,000+, with the 1,610 properties currently under construction within 1,000 metres of King Eddies, the majority of which are High Rise Flats, no gardens and very small balconies, and little or no play space.

MzFitz said...

Gosh, I must admit I saw the headline of this on Twitter yesterday and thought "how lovely, meadow land". With absolutely no thought as to how this would be achieved other than not cutting the grass. I had visions of delightful cowslips, wild poppies, foxgloves ... Tall grasses swaying in a gentle breeze. Wildlife peeping through a glory of buttercups and daisies. Way to sell washing your hands of the green stuff, Brent.

This needs to be circulated to a wider audience who, like me, may be ignorant as to the bigger picture in Brents proposal.

MMC said...

Very disappointing that whole tracts of land will now become no go areas for wheelchairs an an buggy users. Un-managed land is not accessible land. Wildflowers need to be introduced and carefully maintained. Here's hoping that local hospitals are prepared to deal with tick and adder bites.

Anonymous said...

Yes on first reading this sounds promising, but looks like it may well be another of those 'cost cutting' exercises that end up costing more in the long run. Why no public consultation(not that they usually listen to comments made) and why no mention of strategy and resource to enhance biodiversity. What is this new Brent Wildlife Watch site? Given the staff cutbacks in Brent's Environment section some yrs ago, who is working on this?

Anonymous said...

According to the Gardeners guild, some head gardeners are paid £16k a year and on average gardeners are paid £17690 annually. You could therefore employ 3 people in house on Brent Council Payroll for a fraction of £900K. We could pay each gardener 30K a year resulting in a spend of £90K a year to cut grass across each of the parks.

The only reason I can think that it was costing the council so much, is that its another example of waste.

Anonymous said...

Oh good, I've got a couple of mattresses and an old fence panel I need to get rid of, this'll be perfect.

Seriously though, has anyone actually seen one of these so called (meadows) the one in silver jubilee park just looks like they've forgotten to cut a patch of grass in the middle of the park.

At least it's not costing us anything....

Anonymous said...

The name 'meadow land' might ring a bell with some people. It has a bit of previous as far as euphemistic bullshit is concerned. Meadowlands was the temptingly pastoral name the South African apartheid regime gave to the place they made the 'non-whites' move to when they forcefully removed them from, and then bulldozed, the multicultural downtown area of Sophiatown in Johannesburg in the 50s under what was called the Native Resettlement Act.
Miriam Makeba popularised a song about this bit of ethnic cleansing and there's a version (not Miriam M here).

Mike Hine

muni3131 said...

Such pessimism. It's either this or pay more tax. It will be fine. Even if there won't be lots of pretty flowers there can still be grass paths mowed through. How many people cross these large grass areas in a crazy zigzag anyway? On the north side of the Welsh Harp a large field is mowed once a year. No one crosses it except the vagrants camping there. It will be like that. Less visible litter as well.

Unknown said...

I think it's brilliant. We need more meadows so that we get more butterflies and small birds. Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Classic Brent Council...... someone who is clueless making decisions like this. All that the parks will attract are rodents. I mean what type of special prat does it take to make these decisions.