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Council set to consult on maintenance of green spaces

Cheshire East Council is set to consult on proposals for how green spaces are maintained as it looks to make essential savings and continues to deliver on its carbon neutral ambitions.

A report to September’s environment and communities committee seeks approval to consult on a draft policy which introduces a maintenance framework for Cheshire East’s green spaces, including parks, sports playing fields, cemeteries, and public open space within housing estates.

The policy proposes how and when each type of site will be maintained, so that there is a consistent standard across the borough.

It would also deliver opportunities to enhance areas of no-mow or allow areas to naturally develop into scrubland as a form of rewilding – supporting biodiversity and the council’s pledge to make Cheshire East a carbon neutral borough by 2045.

The policy is required to deliver essential savings included in the council’s adopted medium-term financial strategy. The council is set to report financial pressures of £12.8m against its 2023/24 budget. Savings have already been identified to reduce this from £26.6M. 

Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee, said:

“The development of this draft policy has been done in the context of ongoing and significant financial pressures and has been guided by the need to ensure that the service can continue to be affordable in the immediate and longer term.

“In comparison to other local authorities in the region, it is clear that the standard of maintenance we currently deliver for certain sites is considerably higher, which means costs are considerably higher too. 

“This draft policy considers which green spaces across the borough offer the greatest value to our communities and reflects this in the level of maintenance proposed.

“It also supports progress in achieving our carbon neutral ambitions, as we look at how we can reduce our carbon impact across the services we deliver.

“For example, mowing less regularly promotes the growth of grass and allows wildflowers to flourish, which benefits a variety of different insects and small animals.”

The maintenance policy only relates to the parcels of land maintained by the council’s environmental services company Ansa and does not cover green spaces included as part of the adopted highway.

The report to the 28 September committee also seeks approval to consult on the recommendations from a review of sites the council is currently maintaining but is not registered as owning.

Cllr Warren added:

“The review identified more than 400 parcels of land that the council is not registered as owning, and we continue to maintain the vast majority of these sites.

“But this maintenance does of course come at a cost, and we simply must look at options for their future management and maintenance, especially where the council can clearly demonstrate that it is not the registered owner of the land.”

For these parcels of land, the council is seeking to consult on proposals to classify the sites under three categories, including maintaining specific sites in line with the draft maintenance policy, and giving registered landowners and relevant town councils the option to fund continued maintenance activity.

Subject to approval by committee later this month, the public consultation will begin in October, with final proposals brought back to committee for a decision to implement in February 2024, and the new policies in place from April 2024.

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