Much-loved Keynsham green space 'lost' in council cuts to mowing, say residents

July 02 2018
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Families in Keynsham say they have lost the use of a much-loved green space because the grass has been left uncut by the council.

The field backing onto Teviot Road was once filled with people enjoying picnics and playing ball games, say residents, but now the space is empty – filled only with grass that has been left to grow to around waist-height.

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s grounds maintenance team has mowed around the edges of the field and cut a path across it to the basketball court every month since April but the rest has been left untended.

Resident Beth Barnes-Watts, a mother of three, said it had not only left people unable to use the field as they had in previous summers but had also sparked health concerns for local families.
“One of my five-year-old son’s friends developed hives after he’d been in the long grass and there could even be ticks,” she said. “I have also been suffering with hayfever this year, as have some of our neighbours. Nature reserves are great – but not when you’re living in one.

“Another issue is that you can’t see the dog mess in the grass. We have been told to report it to the council’s Cleansing Service but surely it is more cost-effective to just cut the grass than to send people out to clean up.

“One of the attractions of this house was the field – I could watch the children playing from the window and there were always families having picnics.

“We just want our space back. We were told it would be reviewed at the end of the year but people want to use it for summer.”

The council says it maintains around 230 hectares of grassed areas, including parks, playing fields and verges, and the way they are being maintained has changed because cuts have left the Parks Team with fewer staff and because the council is creating wildflower meadows in parks to encourage wildlife.

Under the new regime, parks are mowed every two weeks, playing fields and open spaces every four to six weeks while residential verges will either be cut every four to six weeks or twice a year depending on an assessment by the council.

A council spokesperson has told Keynshamvoice that a larger area of grass near the children’s play area will be cut in the coming weeks. They did not confirm whether the reduced grass-cutting at Teviot Road was because of cutbacks or for wildlife.

Resident Gary Lloyd said he had lived near the field for 19 years and it was the first time it hadn’t been cut. “It was always busy with people playing football or rounders but nobody uses it now,” he added.

Neighbour Rich Clark, a dad of two, said the grass had started to get “out of hand” earlier in the year leading residents to wonder when it would be cut.

“We are very lucky to have this facility here which is used by so many people, not just the families who live nearby.

“One day it’s supposed to be our village green as part of the new development so we will need it to be cut.

“It’s always empty now and it’s such a shame.”

A B&NES Council spokesperson issued a brief statement to Keynshamvoice saying: “A wider area of land by the play area will be cut within the next two weeks and it will be maintained over the summer.”

Meanwhile, Keynsham Town Council has issued an apology over the upkeep of some of the green spaces and footpaths it manages, such as the cemetery and Manor Road playing fields, as its grounds team has been hit by staff shortages.

Council chairman Councillor Clive Fricker said: “The town council is aware that residents have expressed concern over recent weeks concerning the upkeep of green spaces and footpaths within Keynsham. While the town council is responsible for maintaining certain play areas and footpaths, together with Manor Road and the cemetery, the rest fall to either B&NES or other organisations with whom the town council is currently liaising about residents’ concerns. 

“The town council accepts that specific green spaces – especially Manor Road and the cemetery – have not been kept to the usual high standard and would like to apologise for this. Our usual team of four grounds maintenance staff has been reduced to two over the last six weeks owing to sickness and a vacancy and certain areas such as play areas have to take priority over others for health and safety reasons.

“The council is also very aware that the cemetery is an extremely sensitive area and that its condition is of prime importance. Apologies have been issued to any families affected and outside contractors have been deployed to help restore the cemetery to its normal high standard.” 

At their June meeting, town councillors also agreed that urgent repairs to the cemetery chapel spire should go ahead, with a maximum estimated cost of £7,700.