Sefton Council hails wild flower savings

Sefton Council has saved thousands of pounds by replacing ornamental beds with wild flower meadows.

Sefton Council: key role for wild flowers
Sefton Council: key role for wild flowers

Replacing traditional flower beds with wild flower meadows has helped Sefton Council save thousands of pounds over the past five years.

Green-space manager Mark Shaw said the council replaced ornamental flower beds with long grasses and wild flowers in 40 per cent of its 260 sites - or 700ha of its urban green space.

"We have moved away from a traditional, ornamental approach towards a more naturalistic style. This looks pretty good, has clear benefits to biodiversity and has essentially halved our costs."

He disagreed with warnings from parks consultants David Lambert and Dr Sid Sullivan that wild flower meadows are a false economy because they still require a lot of skill to maintain and come with their own sets of problems (HW, 5 July).

Shaw said the planting contributed to an overall £2m saving made by the council's parks department over the past five years. "It is still a cheaper alternative to annual beds and rose gardens," he added. "They are still floral, still attractive and they look good. People say how lovely it is."

The cost of any new equipment required is agreed from the outset with the council's grounds-maintenance contractor, the Landscape Group, Shaw explained.

London Parks & Green Spaces Forum director Tony Leach warned authorities to do their homework. "It does require different machinery," he said. "They have to think about it carefully - you cannot do it half-heartedly.

"But over the last couple of decades, thanks to the work done at Sheffield University, the science has moved on to support the park managers."

Further savings: Relying on volunteers

Sefton Council has also saved money by more heavily relying on volunteers after cutting back its green-space team from 60 to 40 gardeners.

Green-space manager Mark Shaw said the council has been working with several different charities, such as the Prince's Trust, to provide volunteers.

"Four of our volunteers are from HMP Kennet. They have been coming out to the parks five days a week to do some of our Heritage Lottery Fund work. That's due to expand," he added.

Shaw insisted that volunteers do not replace professional grounds staff because the work that they do is different.

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