PARKS will be allowed to “grow wild” under plans to make them more environmentally friendly and save money.
Green spaces not used as sports pitches or recreation areas are set to be mown as rarely as once a year under the plan, in a bid to turn them into “wildlife-rich” havens.
Leith Links, Saughton and Victoria parks are among areas lined up for the new approach and the Evening News understands changes have not been ruled out at flagship inner-city spots such as the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links.
The plan would extend to verges, banks and other lesser-used features, with key roundabouts in districts such as Broughton and Comely Bank also potentially subject to the more “relaxed” approach.
Most green spaces are mown fortnightly to maintain a maximum grass length of 60 millimetres, although cutting rates reduce during winter months. It is understood Princes Street Gardens – located within the World Heritage site – will not be included in the overhaul.
Critics today attacked the idea as “unsuitable”, warning it would make neighbourhoods look unkempt and give the “wrong impression” to visitors. Audrey Cavaye, secretary for New Town and Broughton Community Council, said: “Personally, I would not like it – it’s the fact people would look at that and think the council doesn’t care, which does not give out the right message.”
“This is supposed to be one of the top places to live in the world [and] it’s not going to help if they make the city look worse rather than better.
“Potentially, there are some areas of the city where it would work but I don’t think the city centre and world heritage site would be suitable.”
The proposal would also see an acceleration of the Living Landscapes project, which aims to introduce wildflower meadows and “naturalised” grassland to urban settings. The scheme has been piloted in communities across Scotland, including Cumbernauld and Coigach-Assynt in the north-west Highlands.
Project leaders said the changes had been well received and predicted they would boost Edinburgh’s parks.
Ian Mackenzie, project development manager at Cumbernauld Living Landscape, said: “Where we have areas of vacant and derelict land in the town centre, we have improved these by planting more trees.
“There have been no complaints about the Living Landscapes project. Different people have different ideas about how spaces should be managed. This is about managing them well for wildlife and for people.”
City leaders, who hope to save £200,000 through the plan, said careful consultation would be carried out with all affected communities before plans are implemented.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “The changes are already under way as part of the Edinburgh Living Landscapes initiative, which aims to create attractive and biodiverse landscapes through concepts like wildflower meadows and naturalised grassland, though they have an added cost-saving benefit.”