Plants that were once dismissed as weeds and cleared from the Bradford’s parks will now be embraced as “diverse flora” – according to a new council report.
An annual report into Bradford Council’s parks and green spaces service details how parks across the district could soon be changing.
It says there needs to be a “mind shift” if what people consider to be a well maintained park, and swathes of grass that were recently regularly mowed will now be allowed to grow wild.
Budget cuts to the service over recent years have led to fewer floral beds being planted across the Bradford district and reduced frequency of grass cutting in parks.
And the parks service is facing a further £50,000 in cuts in the coming year.
The annual report says the cuts are leading to changes in how local parks are maintained – there will be a move towards making local parks “nature friendly,” allowing areas of grass to grow and for weeds to become “wildflower” havens that attract wildlife.
It adds: “Moving in this direction requires a mind shift in relation to what is considered a well maintained park or green space. Areas of long grass under trees, on bankings and in designated areas, would be considered the norm. Plants previously considered as weeds would be welcomed as diverse flora.”
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One councillor has warned that such projects need to be handled properly, rather than just left to grow as fields of thistles.
The combined total area of the grass maintained by the council’s service is in excess of 7.5 million square metres; the equivalent of 1,043 Wembley Stadium pitches.
The report will go before Bradford Council’s Shipley area committee on January 15, where members will be told that there are already good examples of such wild areas in the constituency.
The report adds: “There is an increased desire within the district and a trend nationally, towards more ‘nature friendly’ parks.
“This leads us towards reducing the amount of chemicals used in parks and green spaces and increasing the amount of space managed with nature in mind, providing habitats for plants and animals.
“Areas of differential grassland management already exist in the Shipley Area including large areas of Northcliffe Park and the bankings off Carr Lane already treated as meadow areas.
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“Areas of wild flower planting are in Cliffe Avenue Recreation Ground and Glenwood Avenue open space in Baildon and on areas of Bingley and Burley bypass.
“There remains potential to naturalise further areas and introduce a wider verity of flora in some of the less intensively used spaces. ”
The report also reveals the complaints about grass cutting increased last year in many wards in Shipley.
Coun John Pennington, leader of the Conservatives on Bradford Council, said wildflowers in parks were fine, but warned that weeds should not be welcome everywhere.
He said: “Areas of wildflowers are always a good thing in parks. But we see weeds growing on kerbs and footpaths and a build up of plants and soil to almost window box proportions.
“It is all well and good leaving them to grow in parks, but we don’t want them growing everywhere else. I often wonder what visitors must think, and it won’t be a good impression for the City of Culture bid.”
Coun Brendan Stubbs, who represents Liberal Democrats in Eccleshill, had previously raised some concerns over plans to let areas of park land grow wild.
Referring to the new report he said: “They still have to maintain footpaths and large areas of the park. And if there are areas of wild growing they need to signpost it, otherwise people will just think it has been left to grow because the Council doesn’t care and the park is just going to rack and ruin. That would be doing a disservice to everyone.
“If they are letting an area grow to attract insects and butterflies then would hopefully let the public know about it. It won’t take much to put it up on a notice board.
“They still need to make sure there are areas of traditional park, they can’t just abandon an area totally. You don’t want people thinking their kids can’t play there.
“I hope it is varied, ideally it won’t just be fields full of dandelions and thistles. It would be nice to see a variety of species so it looks like a real meadow.”