Protect your parks

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I HAD to write over the appalling devastation in Meersbrook Park.

The park is (was) a lovely, well-used green space. The Friends group have made lots of really good improvements and the walled garden’s a credit to the hard work of local people.

The vegetation provides (provided) a healthy mix of ground flora and low shrubs, very important middle storey vegetation and mature trees. It is a park providing a good balance of environments for people and wildlife.

Myself and neighbours were horrified a week ago when a team of contractors hired by our council arrived and, by mid-morning, had ‘grubbed’ up two parallel privet hedges lining the entrance. During the following two days most of the middle-height, well-established vegetation surrounding the bowling green, was gone.

Although privet is probably not the most attractive nor popular hedging plant it provides a wonderful roosting site and shelter for small birds, wrens, dunnocks and, in particular, sparrows. Insects in the dense hedging provide a rich food source when others are unavailable.

A healthy colony of sparrows used the hedging. Where will they now go?

Sheffield Biodiversity Action Plan sets out to specifically protect sparrows and their nesting/roosting sites as sparrows have declined by 46% over the last 25 years. The document lists objectives to protect this red list species. Is this plan worth the paper it is written on?

The park attracts flocks of winter thrushes. On the approach of sparrowhawks or any other danger they take immediate cover in the vegetation surrounding the bowling green. That is now not an option!

I made urgent calls to the parks officers to be informed that these works are part of a cost-saving programme that is to be rolled out in all parks. I was told that an ecological survey had been done. The ecology officers told me the plan was to carry out some monitoring before work started. This has not happened. I know of no local consultation.

Economies have to be made but once lost these valuable sites are lost, they take years to replace. Surely we should be consulted before such measures are taken. They may have good ideas to find other ways of economising.

It’s too late for Meersbrook but you may be able to save your park.

Jan Turner

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