Falkirk Council hit by grasscutting complaints in backlash to new biodiversity scheme

A biodiversity project that meant grass was being left uncut across Falkirk has prompted a slew of complaints from residents.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 12:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 12:52 pm

Councillors blasted Falkirk Council officials for not getting the message out quickly enough about the project.

They were told that signs explaining the pilot, which should have been in place around the district in April, had taken months to get through procurement and were only now nearly ready.

At a meeting of Falkirk’s executive committee, the Conservative group leader James Kerr said that he, like other councillors, “had been getting loads of complaints from residents” about the scheme.

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Picture Michael Gillen

“I feel that we didn’t communicate this right,” he said.

The biodiversity pilot has seen the council using 35 pilot areas to try different ways of grass management – with some areas getting fewer cuts and some being left uncut.

Trees, bulbs and wildflowers were also planted.

There was information about each of the sites on the council’s website.

Picture Michael Gillen

But councillors had asked for signage to be placed in each of the areas – and they were unhappy that this had not happened as the growing season was coming to an end.

Mr Kerr said he was supportive of the project but he and others had warned officers that it would have to be carefully explained to get people on board.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said he agreed that the way it had been communicated was poor and he had not seen any signage.

“I’m sure everybody here has had comments and overgrown grass and people are wondering what’s going on,” he said.

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However, council officials said that the project and in particular the consultation had been advertised via the website and hundreds of people had responded.

Douglas Duff, acting director of development services, added: “We do recognise the concerns some residents have but there are also residents who are very supportive of promoting biodiversity.”

He said all of the feedback would come through the consultation process.

Officers said that several temporary signs had been put up, although they admitted that the permanent ones had to go through a process of design and procurement and were expected to go up soon.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said that the communication for the project had not been perfect but that officers were gathering more information.

She urged officers to come back in front of councillors with the information they had collated and give some feedback from the consultation as early as possible.

Mr Duff said that the report will be brought back before the growing season starts again and he hoped it would be around January.

However, Mr Kerr said: “It’s the communities that need to get the communication. They need to buy into it for this to work.”

Councillor Joan Coombes added: “It’s not good enough to put it on the website – we need the signs where people are walking.

“All we needed was something very simple, to say ‘these aren’t weeds, they’re wildflowers’.

“And it’s not good enough to wait until August when the weeds are knee-high.”

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