Harold Hill woman calls on Havering Council to abandon “long grass meadows” policy after breaking arm in five places

A 71-year-old Harold Hill woman is calling on Havering Council to abandon the parks policy she believes led to her breaking her arm in five places - and subsequent surgery during which her hand became paralysed.

Brenda Dreyer suffered permanent damage to her left arm after falling in Keats Avenue Park, Keats Avenue, where grass had been left deliberately uncut, obscuring a dangerous hole.

“I’m walking with my dog around the perimeter of the field and all of a sudden my foot’s gone straight down a hole hidden by the grass,” said Brenda Dreyer, of Keats Avenue. “I went ‘smack’, right on my face and I was in hospital for 10 days through shock.”

Later, during an operation to fix the shattered bone, a nerve in her arm was damaged, leaving her hand paralysed.

She added: “And all because I couldn’t see in the grass.”

Heaton councillor Denis O’Flynn raised Brenda’s case at last month’s full council meeting during a question about the council’s “long grass policy”.

Havering’s culture, towns and communities boss Cllr Andrew Curtin said the council had decided to leave certain areas of grass to grow for up to two years to encourage a “richer natural environment” and maintain the habitats of plants and animals.

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But e-mails seen by the Recorder between Ms Dreyer and a council officer suggest the policy was adopted in part because the council simply couldn’t afford to keep cutting the grass in all its parks.

“Unfortunately we are in a position where we have had to make savings across the borough in all parks and open spaces,” the officer wrote. “One of the reasons for this is that a member of the grounds maintenance tractor team retired and has not been replaced.”

The officer added there had been “a lot of pressure to increase wildlife habitats throughout the borough” and that the choice to leave some grass areas uncut was “the best of a bad choice” that “does not sit comfortably with some of our sites”. Other options had included selling off some of the open space, and abandoning some parks altogether.

When the Recorder put these suggestions to the council, it was told: “The policy has been introduced to promote nature conservation. We have had a policy of working with allotment societies, Friends of Parks groups and local nature conservation groups to promote nature conservation by introducing meadow areas, like the one at Keats Avenue, in parks since 2007.

“This is reaping rich rewards as a number of species of bird, insect and plant have now been attracted back to the borough. Green areas like this support good health and wellbeing in the community and add to the quality of the environment in the borough.”

The council did not respond to the allegation that it had introduced the policy because of budget cuts and understaffing.

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