Rewilding complaints in East Devon prompts council re-think amid concerns over motorist safety and kids’ play problems

Multiple complaints have been made to the council that rewilded areas in East Devon pose a crash risk to motorists and have stopped kids from playing.

Children in East Devon are finding it hard to play football because the local council is letting long grass grow in favourite play areas, writes local democracy reporter Guy Henderson.

And overgrown roadside verges are creating an accident hazard, it’s been claimed.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is one of many councils nationwide to ‘rewild’ some open spaces, allowing grass and wild flowers to take over. Letting the grass grow is good for the environment, and encourages birds and insects. It also help council budgets, cutting cash spent on maintenance.

But last week, members of East Devon’s overview committee heard calls for a new policy following complaints from local residents.

Committee chair Cllr Anne Hall ( Lib Dem, Exmouth Littleham) led calls to create ‘a more balanced approach’ and give the right impression to residents and tourists.

It should be in place in time for the spring growing season in 2024, she said. Numerous complaints had been received about children’s play areas where children normally play football, but now can’t due to long grass.

She is concerned that there is not enough management of the ‘no-mow’ policy.

“These places need to be managed so there is a reason for it rather than just leaving it long,” she said. “So you haven’t just got everything growing five feet tall and looking untidy.

“It needs to be managed rather than just being left. I’m all for biodiversity, but it needs to be done correctly.”

Cllr Ian Barlow (Independent, Sidmouth Town) added: “People say it’s just the council being lazy and just giving up, but that’s not the case. We need to look at this very carefully.”

And Cllr John Heath (Independent, Beer and Branscombe) said grass cutting around road junctions and cycle paths should be managed better, and that Devon County Council’s highways department should be lobbied to deal with long grass verges better.

He went on: “I am getting a number of complaints that when people are coming to junctions, they can’t see around them.

Cllr Hall said health and safety should be paramount, and there had recently been a crash at Honiton caused by an overgrown verge.

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