Devastation at Meersbrook Park

From: Jan Turner

By e-mail

I felt I had to sit down and write in response to the devastation carried out in Meersbrook Park.

I live opposite the park on Meersbrook Park Road, the park is (was) a lovely diverse green space and well used by the local community.

The Friends group have made lots of really good recreational improvements and the walled garden is a credit to all the hard work put in by local people.

The vegetation on the site 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 on Monday morning when a team of private contractors hired by our council arrived and, by mid morning, had ‘grubbed’ up the two parallel privet hedges lining the entrance to the park.

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 and currently popular hedging plant it provides a wonderful roosting site and shelter for small birds, wrens, dunnocks and, in particular, sparrows.

Spiders and insects living in the dense hedging provide a rich food source when other sources are unavailable.

We had a very healthy colony of sparrows using the hedging and now ...where will they go.

The Sheffield Biodiversity Action Plan sets out to specifically protect sparrows and their nesting/roosting sites. Quoting the the council’s own action plan ‘Sparrows have declined by 46% over the last 25 years’.

The document then proceeds to list objectives to protect this Red List species. Is this plan worth the paper it is written on?

At this time of year the park attracts large flocks of winter thrushes. They can be seen foraging on the ‘ski slope.’ On the approach of sparrowhawks or any other danger the habit is to 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, as you will probably guess, that these works are part of the maintenance cost saving programme that is going to be rolled out in all Sheffield parks.

I was told that an ecological survey had been done. I spoke to the ecology officers who said that the plan was to carry out some monitoring before work started.

This has not happened. There was no local consultation that I am aware of.

We all know that economies have to be made but once these valuable sites are lost they will take years to replace.

Surely it is right that local people should be consulted before such drastic measures are taken.

They might even have good ideas to find other ways of economising.

It is too late for Meersbrook but, hopefully, you may stand a chance of protecting your local parks.

lA Sheffield City Council spokesman confirmed two privet hedges at the park entrance on Meersbrook Park Road were removed by their contractors, following consultation with the Park’s Friends Group.

“It was felt that the removal would improve the entrance in terms of visual appearance and safety as well as opening up an area of the park that is under used,” said the officer.

“After consultation with Meersbrook Park Bowling Club it was agreed that the overgrown privet hedge surrounding the bowling green could be removed - again to offer improved visual impact and generally improve standards.

“We also consulted our Ecology Unit regarding the environmental impact of the removal and officers agreed that any removal was best done before the beginning of March to avoid any impact on the nesting season.’’

The Ecology Officer also stated that the removal would have no detrimental impact on wildlife as a whole, as this area of the Park has adequate ‘green’ cover.”