Proposals from Bedford Borough Council to reduce and downgrade its green space maintenance staff could have serious implications for Harrold and Odell Country Park (HOCP), according to Harrold Ward Cllr Alison Foster.
The Borough Council currently has 5 Country Park Guardians who maintain Harrold-Odell Country Park, Priory Country Park in Bedford and 25 nature and wildlife reserves and other green spaces. An internal consultation closed earlier in January on options to review staffing numbers, as well as the pay and responsibilities, of the Guardians.
At a meeting of the Borough Council last week, Cllr Foster set out her concerns for the future of the ‘Friends of HOCP’, a volunteer group which relies on the supervision and support of the Guardians.
Following the meeting she said:
‘The Guardians provide fantastic and professional support to the Friends of HOCP, enabling them to undertake essential conservation work.
‘I met with the Friends at the beginning of January, along with Alistair Burt MP, to discuss the implications of the staffing proposals. We were told that there is a strong possibility the Friends could disband without the supervision of the Guardians. At the Borough Council on the 17th January I requested to see, therefore, any cost / benefit analysis that has been undertaken on the effect on volunteer groups should the proposals go ahead.
‘Aside from their efforts in maintaining and conserving the Country Park, the Friends have also provided and attracted funding for the bird hide, a board walk to the dragonfly pond and £25k for the new outdoor classroom, which has been extremely popular with local schools, as well as £5k for learning materials.
‘If the Friends group did not exist, none of this would have been possible. Its demise would also leave open the possibility of the Council paying more in the future on external support to replace the good work that is done by the Friends under the guidance of the Guardians.
‘The proposal represents short termism and a false economy. I have urged the Environment Portfolio Holder to reconsider.’