Responding to a complaint by Paul Lorber regarding Brent Council’s policy of not mowing grass in large sections of the borough’s parks Chris Whyte, Operational Director of Environmental Services, has written justifying the policy:
I am sorry you feel the council’s parks are no longer accessible to the general public.That’s not intended. We have committed to retaining and cutting recreational space in all our parks. However, the extent of that must now be dependent on the cost and the resources that are available. That is a very real constraint, I’m afraid.The council must now manage all its larger parks in this way. It is necessary because it enables the council to better prioritise its funds. In addition, it means a different habitat is created in our parks, which is intended to be a positive.It’s a shame you reject this approach; there are other ‘Friends of’ groups who see it as a positive. It may be seen as an untidy cost cutting exercise, but this group have asked that it is retained and that we cut once a year as intended, providing them with the cut grass which they can then use for their environmental project work. They’ve also kindly provided a list of benefits they say the long grass will bring to their park. I’ve attached it so you can get a sense of their enthusiasm.They’re clear – ‘grass of differing heights and maintenance levels provides a greater variety of habitats for wildlife and greatly increases the bio-diversity of the park’. We’re hopeful these benefits will start to become more obvious over time.There is a three-way balance to be struck here.Maintaining access for recreational use which we do by still cutting the popular areas, managing the operation within the budget that is still available, and creating new and vital urban habitats for wildlife. That’s what is taking effect at Barham and the other Brent parks. The meadows will be an important way of trying to protect native species of wildflowers, as well as the insects and birds that feed on them. In recent years, many populations of bees and other pollinators have been declining significantly. This has been seen globally as a threat to biodiversity, long-term food production and ultimately human health.I am aware the visual impact will take some getting used to but we see this approach as being much more vital than simply and relentlessly cutting the grass in a way that provides no ecological value.You mentioned separately you’d like the matter discussed at a forthcoming [Barham] Trust meeting. That can happen. Not least, we would welcome the opportunity to sell the benefits and to get your support.
Lorber has replied asking for his complaint to be moved to the next stage of the Council’s Complaints Procedure:
For the avoidance of doubt I now wish to have my complaint pursued to the next stage.In considering my complaint you should refer to the Brent Borough Plan 2015 - 19 which makes numerous references to the importance of local Parks and gives the promises that they will be well cared and looked after.This promise has been broken in the case of Barham Park. The Park lost its Green Flag status some time back because of previioys decisions. The well regarded annual planting which brought a lot of colour to part of the Park ceased many years ago. Shrubs are neglected and poorly maintained by the contractors - they are hacked rather than properly probed.The latest decision not to cut the grass in large parts of the Park has made the large areas unusable for public recreation and created no go areas.The condition of these neglected areas in this hot weather is a potential fire hazard. I doubt that a risk assessment has been carried out and if by chance it has perhaps you can provide a copy.By copy the officers involved with the preparation of the last borough plan can perhaps provide a definition of ‘well cared for parks’ and explain what was/is in their view the purpose a Park in the urban environment and what the disadvantages are of creating large no go areas for the Public.If by chance you wish my complaint to be withdrawn than please arrange for the large areas of the uncut grass to be cut and for the grass cutting to be fully removed.