Locals take on memorial upkeep

Residents take on responsibility for mowing and clearing litter around London war memorial.

No money changing hands in two-year licence agreement
No money changing hands in two-year licence agreement

A south London council has signed a grounds maintenance agreement with residents after its decision to concrete over a war memorial garden caused an outcry.

The two-year licence, with no money changing hands, makes residents associated with the Wimbledon Society responsible for mowing the grass around the memorial, and clearing away droppings and litter.

Bin collection, paths and the memorial itself will be looked after by Merton Council, which also provides public liability insurance for the volunteers. They can withdraw from the contract by giving a month's notice. The council is in talks with residents on similar schemes at other green spaces.

Wimbledon Society chairman Asif Malik said: "Local residents are very happy to carry out the work. The council is increasingly looking to local groups to take green spaces on."

London Parks & Green Spaces Forum director Tony Leach said while there is a growing trend for councils to hand work over to residents, a formal contract is rare. "Given the right conditions it works successfully, but only in small areas," he said.

Parks and green spaces have been hit hard by Government austerity cuts since 2010 because of their discretionary status. Even the Royal Parks has seen a 36 per cent cut to its funding.

National Federation of Parks & Green Spaces campaigns officer Dave Morris said as a consequence some friends groups are "being backed into a corner" and feel they have no option but to take over.

He added: "This is a huge legal, financial and collective responsibility to take on forever. It is no solution for the vast majority of the UK's 30,000 urban parks." He called for the Government "to wake up to the crisis they are causing".


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