Chelmsford residents without gardens ‘unable to use parks’ after council no mowing decision

Chelmsford City Council’s no mowing policy is leaving public spaces unable to be used for recreation while causing a major fire risk, residents have said.

Around 160 signatures have been collected in opposition to the council mowing policy that has been in place since March but which has left swathes of open space in Galleywood used by people living in Home Mead, Archers Way and Barnard Road with knee high grass.

They say they can no longer walk dogs or are able to let small children play in these overgrown areas which have been closed as wild gardens.

They claim the long grass also poses a fire risk – illustrated most acutely by a series of blazes that broke out due to the heatwave on July 19.

Resident John Owers said: “It is a fire hazard. Look at what happened in London. Lots of people have lost their homes and that could happen here. One dropped cigarette and everyones’ lives are going to be in danger. It is unacceptable. It really is.”

His neighbour Karla Schon said the no mowing means there is a lack of dog walking areas nearby and children are being denied decent places to play.

She said: “I understand the reasons behind the policy. However, I think it is at the sacrifice of the people who live immediately around these pieces of grass.

“This is communal land and should be used by people who don’t have a garden to come to walk their dogs or to sit with a little blanket and have a little picnic if they want.

“I shouldn’t have to get in my car and drive to any other parks on a hot day using extra diesel.

“I know they are trying to save money and I get that but it is almost like they are dressing up the money saving with nature to get people on board with it.

“I really feel like that they have completely ignored the people who live here, who have to see it everyday.

She added: “I understand the wilding argument but I just feel there are a millions of places in Chelmsford and Galleywood where they could do this without impacting lives.

“Doing it here is not taking in consideration residents especially who don’t have their own garden.

“I want the council to use some common sense they need to recognise that this is place where families and children should be playing.

“There are loads of places you could leave the grass to grow.”

Chelmsford City Council says the new approach of reduced grass cutting which it adopted in March has already started to benefit wildlife biodiversity which it says will help the fight against climate change.

But allowing grass to grow tall has sparked concerns from other people across the city – including those living in Beaulieu Park

Patricia Brind, who has lived in Barnard Road, in Galleywood for 49 years said: “I firmly believe is this is not because they want to wild these areas. It is cost cutting. It is a total eyesore.

But the policy of allowing grass verges to grow wild will not be reversed the city council has said.

Councillor Rose Moore, Chelmsford Council cabinet member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford said that that all the areas that are subject to the lo-mo policy which is is the whole of the Chelmsford district have been assessed for safety – including a fire risk.

She said at a meeting on July 12: “In short the areas in Beaulieu are the sign of the success of the policy in term of the biodiversity.

“We reversed the mowing regime so the close mown areas are still undertaken where we need access and amenity space and our sports pitches are still maintained in the same way.

“At Beaulieu we have cut pathways between the edging of one area of housing but we will not be reversing the policy and I can reassure that all those areas have been assessed for safety.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter