Town hall chiefs today revealed they can no longer afford to cut grass in parts of Blackpool – prompting fears overgrown areas will become magnets for litter and dog fouling.
Blackpool Council’s parks and open spaces service has seen its budget slashed by £631,000 over the last three years leading to a much smaller workforce.
Now it says it “cannot continue to maintain public parks and open spaces to the same standard as previously maintained.”
A priority order for grass cutting has been set out with cemeteries, Stanley Park and the Promenade at the top of the list.
But grass verges and open spaces are given least priority.
The full order is cemeteries, Stanley Park/Promenade, sports pitches (football, bowling, rugby and cricket areas), community parks, grass verges and general amenity grass.
Bispham councillor Don Clapham warned the move would spark complaints from residents.
He said: “In Bispham we have had major complaints about how the grass has been left year in year out on the cliff tops.
“Eventually when they do cut it, they find cans, bottles, litter and dog mess.
“Dog walkers claim they cannot see where their dog has made a deposit, so they just leave it in the long grass.
“So I am particularly horrified by the prospect of the council doing even less grass cutting in the town.
However, the council says the cliff tops are included in the Promenade areas which will be given priority – but amenity grass areas “will not be mown where it is safe to do so.”
This will be monitored and where possible single strips of grass will be mown to create walkways through some areas of open space.
Alternative options to manage the land will be wild flower meadow planting, community gardens and planting of shrubs.
Grass verges will be given a low priority, but a report says they “will be cut on a regular frequency to ensure safety is not compromised.”
This will be to protect sight lines at road junctions. A one metre strip on grass verges adjacent to roads will be cut.
But some community groups are concerned.
Anne Allen, chairman of the Friends of Little Marton Windmill which sits on open space in Preston New Road, said she felt ‘despair’ at the move.
She said: “Blackpool Coastal Housing has been mowing the area immediately around the windmill, but the rest of the open space including where the trees have been planted will look a real mess if it is not maintained.
“This area is the gateway to Blackpool so it needs to look nice.
“But if the council hasn’t got the money, I don’t know what you can do.
“We pay our rates so it is disappointing and we are already having to pay an extra £30 to have our green bins emptied.”
Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams said the council “needed to find solutions, not excuses” and called for closer sharing of resources with neighbouring councils to address reduced budgets.
He said: “I am concerned some inner grassed areas in communities will be neglected.
“Not only will the grass become unsightly it will also be traps for litter and dog mess etc.
“It will make the town look extremely unsightly. Visitors come to see Stanley Park - but they have to come down Preston New Road.
“I fail to understand why this council has not engaged more fully in an economic and shared partnership arrangement with our two neighbouring local authorities.
“We all have the same issues and one combined ground maintenance team would not only be more economic it would be more efficient.”
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet secretary for Blackpool Council, said: “With every year of cuts, trying to keep the grass maintained and in good condition has become more and more difficult.
“Put simply, we no longer have enough money or enough staff to do everything we want to.
“That means we have to take really tough decisions about how we spend our limited money so that it keeps residents safe, as well as providing good economic conditions for local businesses.
“Overgrown grass won’t kill anybody and it won’t put any companies out of business.
“Our priority-led approach will mean that popular and economically important areas like the Promenade and Stanley Park, as well as dozens of sports pitches and community parks, will continue to be cut frequently and kept to a decent standard.”