Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies, along with Conservative County Councillor Ann Davies, met a group of Rhuddlan residents last week who are outraged that Denbighshire County Council have stopped cutting an area of grass in front of their homes after 55 years of doing so.
The grass in Nant Close is one of the council’s "Bee Friendly/Biodiversity" designated areas and only a narrow strip around the edge has been maintained since last summer.
Much of the grass is now 1.5 metres in height and obscures trees and ornamental roses. Residents were not consulted on this designation and many have been strongly against. They have previously organised a petition which was rejected by the council.
Now the council, which had maintained the area for more than half a century, has threatened to withdraw oversight of the area in the long term, leaving residents angry.
County Cllr Ann Davies has been pressing Denbighshire County Council to get the grass cut, and James Davies MP has also repeatedly raised his concerns with the council over the non-cutting of grass on this piece of land in Rhuddlan, and at other locations throughout the county.
Cllr Davies said:
"Whilst I support biodiversity and wildflower meadows, I am totally against the planting in residential areas. Nant Close, Rhuddlan is a lovely quiet area, residents are mainly elderly, some are housebound. They have always enjoyed the view across the circular grassed area in front of their properties, now they feel trapped by 5ft tall grass, with not a single wildflower to be seen.
"We now sadly have anti social behaviour in this area. The council have cut this area of grass for over 55 years since the bungalows were built, therefore I believe this should continue.
"I am saddened and embarrassed by the lack of care and empathy shown to the residents, and I would again urge Denbighshire County Council to reinstate this area to its former glory as soon as possible."
“I am very keen to support efforts to improve biodiversity and recently had the pleasure of speaking to Alan Titchmarsh about how this can best be achieved. However, there needs to be a common-sense approach, with buy-in from local people. Sadly, we are not currently seeing this in Denbighshire.
“There are some sites which are well-suited to achieving greater biodiversity, but allowing grass and weeds to overgrow in urban residential settings is often not appropriate, as has proved to be the case at Nant Close in Rhuddlan.
“This piece of land, like many of the county council’s sites, looks a mess, and is largely devoid of flowers and insects: it is far from being biodiverse. The long grass is a trap for dog faeces and litter, a fire hazard when dry, and will encourage vermin and fly tipping. It is devaluing properties, has reduced visibility for drivers and cyclists, ruined the view for housebound residents, and is causing issues for residents who have hayfever (one of the residents said he was needing to use a steroid spray for hayfever for the first time).
"The overgrown area is causing much angst amongst residents who want to have pride in their community. If residents wished their surroundings to look like this, they would manage their own gardens similarly, but they certainly do not!”
“Worse still, it seems to have created a mindset whereby untidiness is rife, with weeds and poorly-cut grass along many of our streets. All in all, there is the perception that the council no longer cares about the quality of the local urban environment.
“Some of the residents who live on Nant Close are elderly and told me that the long grass in front of their homes makes them feel unsafe. Just a couple of days after my visit, the police were called after a man was found lurking in the overgrown grass for over an hour and half!
“Land ownership across the public sector, and within the local authority alone, is more than sufficient to accommodate biodiversity schemes without degrading built-up residential areas. Grassed areas in residential communities were developed for aesthetic reasons and to allow exercise and play. With general agreement, some or parts of these can be managed to encourage attractive and biodiverse wildflower meadows but we must be realistic as to the limits of what can be achieved, and avoid putting ideology ahead of common-sense.
“Denbighshire need to listen, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. There is no value in engaging in a dispute with residents for no tangible gain.”
A statement from the Rhuddlan residents reads:
"We still do not know from Denbighshire County Council why after maintaining the site, including the two junctions, for over 50 years, they changed the status to a Bee Friendly/Biodiversity designated area without any prior consultation with the residents whose property is greatly impacted by this decision.
“Our continued petition since the summer 2021 and the issues we continue to raise are brushed aside by the council.
“With the grass not cut since August last year, the planting of wildflowers remains not actioned and we are left with an awful looking and unkempt site.
“This encourages vermin and flytipping, plus is a fire hazard in the summer.
“Whilst we, the residents, understand the urgent need to safeguard our planet, this change should not be at the expense of health and safety and mental well-being.
“We urge Denbighshire County Council to reconsider their decision.”
James has also received correspondence from residents in other parts of the Vale of Clwyd who are unhappy about the biodiversity areas and overgrown weeds in their neighbourhoods.
Bodelwyddan resident, Heddwyn Jones, recently copied him into an email they have sent to Denbighshire.
In it he states:
"I must complain most strongly regarding the state of the grass in Bodelwyddan. You have left large areas uncut, call it biodiversity - no call it a mess.
"DCC own farmland in various places, just one 10 acre field allowed to rewild would make up for all the grass in towns and villages that you intend not to cut".
Cllr Hugh Irving long standing representative for Central Ward Prestatyn has also received complaints from residents regarding unmaintained areas on his ward.
"I supported the biodiversity initiatives in principle but felt there was a lack of balance in their imposition.
"The Central Ward of Prestatyn has massive biodiverse areas such as much of Prestatyn Hillside, Coed yr Morfa Woodlands ,the wonderful new wetlands area and the Morfas as just a number of examples, but residents are raising concerns with me about smaller now unmaintained plots in residential areas around the Ward such as Woodland Park and the Stoneby Drive/Plas Uchaf Avenue junction.
"I wonder if it is necessary to no longer maintain such sites when the area is surrounded by massive areas and woodland which amply meet biodiversity needs."