PARK users in the borough claim that council bosses have kicked them into the long grass.
The accusation comes after South Tyneside Council changed its grounds maintenance policy in a bid to save £300,000 a year.
The move has resulted in bedding plants being replaced by wildflowers and the creation of wildflower meadows to reduce the amount of grass-cutting required.
The policy change has raised the hackles of many. Detractors claim it makes our green spaces look overgrown and unkempt.
We headed to one of the areas hit by the change, West Park in South Shields, to assess its impact.
Raymond King, 68, park secretary for West Park bowling green, said: “The bowling green itself is well looked after, but you can’t say that for the rest of the park.
“The shrubs and trees are not being trimmed, and the whole park just looks untidy and messy.
“We have a meeting with the council once a month, and we’ve put forward our concerns, but we are told it’s council policy and that’s there just not enough money in the kitty.
“I don’t see why councillors can’t take a cut in their expenses. That might help.”
Retired drawing office worker Mary Wilson, of Simonside, South Shields, said: “The flowerbeds used to be so lovely, and I do miss them being there, but I accept that the council is in a difficult situation and needs to save money. You have to be realistic.
“The flowerbeds were lovely, but there were people who came into the park and stole or destroyed them anyway. We still have a nice park despite the cutbacks.”
Albert Hunter, 70, of Eggerton Road, South Shields, a retired foreman, said: “The park is not looking good, it has to be said. It’s not very picturesque.
“I’d like to see a lot more cutting of the hedges and the trees.
“I feel sorry for the lady bowlers because they have to fight their way through to their changing hut. It’s surrounded by branches and brambles.”
Des Diamond, 67, of Ascot Gardens, South Shields, is unimpressed by the council’s new maintenance policy.
He said: “I don’t know what they were thinking of. If they wanted to save a lot more money, they could have just lawned the whole area instead of replacing the bedding plants with wildflowers, many of which have not taken anyway.
“It would have been much more cost-effective and would have looked much better.
“The current length of the grass allows irresponsible dog walkers not to pick up their dog’s mess, which happens a lot.
“If it was cut short, they couldn’t do that.
“I’d fine any dog walker in the park who doesn’t have a black bag with them. That would stop them.”
Dave Wilson, 67, secretary of South Tyneside Bowling Association, said: “Have a look around West Park and you will see that a lot of the wildflowers which have been planted are not even growing. It looks awful.
“My concerns are that, come the fine weather next year, the seeds will blow onto the bowling green and germinate and impact on the playing surface, which isn’t in a perfect condition anyway.
“It’s all about council cutbacks, and it’s happening all over the borough.”
Retired car worker Keith Ware, 60, of Simonside, said: “It’s pretty much a mess. The park now is half mud and half grass. They should have left things as they were.”