Parks maintenance under spotlight

Published on: 07 Nov 2015

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COMMUNITY groups which help look after South Bristol’s parks are hoping for better times in 2016 after a year of intermittent maintenance and erratic grass cutting.

The city council took the park teams in-house in February after dispensing with the services of Quadron, a private contractor which was generally praised.

The new arrangements got off to a bad start with a backlog of work made worse by a lack of resources. The Voice has been told that some workers had no tools to do their job – leaving some tasks undone for weeks.

Further upset was caused by a reduction in the amount of mowing. Park users were told that grass would be cut less often, with some areas left to grow longer to encourage wildlife.

Where this was planned, it was welcomed – in Victoria Park, for example, the many wildlife enthusiasts are keen to develop a variety of habitats (see page 20).

But the consultation the council claimed to have carried out did not reach all the park groups affected. And sometimes areas were left long to encourage birds and insects, only to be cut down later in the year.

In Victoria Park the open-air film event in August was moved from one part of the park to another because of long grass.

Cllr Gary Hopkins said grass left long in parts of Knowle was “entirely inappropriate”.

And in Filwood people are “losing dogs in the long grass”, Windmill Hill neighbourhood forum was told last month.

At Victoria Park maintenance has improved over the year, though the most recent grass cutting on the park’s steepest slope left mounds of hay. The park’s wildlife group, part of friends group VPAG, thinks the hay may kill the grass underneath if left. However, other mown areas “look really good”, said a spokesman.

At Redcatch park in Knowle the year has gone much more smoothly, helped by a petition which succeeded in retaining park-keeper Fliss Barton at the park full-time.

Friends of Redcatch Park chair John Scott said: “I have not received any complaints about the grass cutting so it all seems to be working well.”

At Perretts park, smaller than the other two parks and without any permanent staff, park users are less happy.

Little maintenance was done throughout the summer, leaving one path near Sylvia Avenue so overgrown it was impassable.

Some benches were so overgrown they were unusable.

After a plea from the park’s friends group, Copp, there was a sudden burst of activity during which all the undergrowth was severely pruned. All the grass was cut, too – including areas which had been left long.

The council said the reduced mowing would allow more repairs to be done – but when Copp asked for urgent repairs to unsafe steps, the work took a month even though it was logged as a safety issue.

A spokesperson for Copp said: “This is a shame after the council put so much work into our new path and playground. We are still waiting for fencing to be fixed and a temporary entrance removed.

“But we hope that next year work will  be carried out in consultation with park users and things will go more smoothly.”

 A council spokesperson said: “We have been trialling changes to our grass cutting regimes with sites being cut at different frequencies.  However most sites will have been maintained as the previous arrangement.”

The council had run consultation on the changes, advertised on park noticeboards, and the response has been largely positive, she said.

 “We will continue to implement different grass cutting regimes next year, but we will speak to park groups to let them know whether they can expect to see anything different.”

 The changes had meant parks teams had been able to carry out daily infrastructure repairs to make a significant improvement on previous years, she said.

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