WILDFLOWER meadows are to be increased throughout the Borders in a bid to boost biodiversity.

Councils across Britain are being encouraged to let neatly-mown grass verges become mini-meadows where wildflowers and wildlife can flourish.

But news of the move which could help Scottish Borders Council save cash and boost its green credentials has not gone down well with Peebles Community Council.

Plans for Haylodge Park have been met with distaste from its chairman.

The flat grassed area on the north side of the River Tweed running west from the town to Fotheringham Bridge is among those under consideration. 

Others include the slope towards the northern edge of the park which is popular for local families to enjoy sledging in the winter.

Chairman Les Turnbull said: “Many members of the community council are against the proposals, though they are supportive of attempts to increase the number of wildflower meadows.”

Parts of Victoria Park and land near Priorsford School are also earmarked.

Mr Turnbull said of the Haylodge Park proposals: “These plans are unsuitable for this location. 

“This area is popular with dog walkers who would find it exceedingly difficult to clean up after their pets if they disappear into long grass and flowers to do their business. This area is also very popular with families who picnic on the flat land beside the river. Haylodge Park has always been a well-manicured park and this is what makes it such a beautiful place to visit and use.”

He questioned whether the plans had been “properly thought through” given that such meadows require upkeep and maintenance.

He added: “These proposals seek to change the very nature of Haylodge Park which is central to recreational life in Peebles. 

“The intention to increase biodiversity is a noble one, but where needs to be carefully considered. 

“The areas identified are heavily used, particularly along the water’s edge and, in my view, should not change. I recognise that others may have a different view and hope that if they do they let us know what they think.”

SBC leader Shona Haslam (Cons) is supportive of the plans, she said: “The way that we manage our green spaces is a hot topic at the moment but one that requires reflection and a reassessment of how we view these essential parts of our town.

“Our knowledge of biodiversity has increased hugely in the past few years and we are all very aware of the challenges that we are facing with regards climate change. 

“We all have to do our bit to ensure that our wildlife has the space that it needs, balanced with ensuring that our public spaces remain popular and useable.

“We are all very used to carefully manicured paths, but actually how wildlife-friendly are they? Or are they actually sterile green spaces that, while pretty, are not actually doing anything much good? 

“By leaving the grass and wildflowers to grow we are creating valuable habitats for our wildlife, we are protecting our river banks. 

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to see otter families back in that stretch of the river as we have seen in other stretches? It also helps to limit access to the river without the need for unsightly fencing.”

Councillor Haslam said a mown path would ensure everyone could still enjoy the space and walk along the riverside.
“We cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect a different result. We have to look at new ways of improving our public spaces, for the benefit of all, including our wildlife.”

Councillor Stuart Bell (SNP) said he welcomed the introduction of biodiversity but warned that the council must be wary of making changes simply to save money.

He added: “I’ve seen the introduction of biodiversity areas in other parts of the Borders and these do need on-going and specialist care and attention or they just become an unsightly mess of weeds.”

I trust that the council’s neighbourhood services team have the skills to manage the changes.”