SWATHES of open spaces and grasslands in West Fife are set to be maintained just once a year under a new grounds maintenance plan.

Fife Council’s strategy will affect nearly 250 acres of parkland across the Kingdom – around seven per cent of all public green space.

It will see a minority of spaces across nearly every ward cut just once a year in the autumn, instead of being cut “intensively” in the summer months.

Pathways will be cut through the affected areas to promote exercise and invasive weed species will still be removed throughout the year.

Ken Gourlay, head of environment, said that “rewilding” some of Fife’s green spaces will create havens of biodiversity for dwindling animal populations.

In his report to Fife’s area committees, he added: “We know the UK has lost 97 per cent of its flower-rich grassland over the past 70 years.

"This has resulted in a drastic decline of around two-thirds of pollinating insects.

“Fife is the most heavily-cultivated region in Scotland so we can make a difference and give our wildlife more of a chance by changing the way we manage our urban green spaces.

“These proposals are an opportunity to counteract these declines.”

Under the new strategy, environment workers will avoid cutting grass in areas that sit at the edge of green spaces or areas that are used less frequently. This will encourage wild flowers to grow, creating natural habitats for wildlife.

When the grass is cut eventually in the autumn it will be left for two to three weeks to allow seed to disperse naturally for the next year before it is baled and used as animal feed, compost or fuel.

Members of the public were consulted on the plans last year, with some accusing the local authority of using the proposals cynically to push through cost-cutting.

However, council environment bosses say the reduction for some spaces will encourage biodiversity, connect locals with nature and cut 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions across Fife every year due to the reduction in the use of grass-cutting vehicles and machinery.

It will also free up 1,088 hours of work time each year, or around 30 people, that can be diverted to other green space maintenance tasks.

Proposals for all 22 council wards were presented to the Kingdom’s area committees for approval, and all but six were approved.

Dunfermline councillor Helen Law said the strategy had "been quite controversial" and Crossford will continue to have grassland mowed regularly after rejecting the plans, while further consultation is taking place in Dunfermline North.

However, the vast majority of local communities across Fife are supportive of the plans – as much as 97 per cent of consulted residents in Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, and a region-wide average of 65 per cent.

A handful of areas where no agreement could be reached on the new plans, such as Rosyth and the West Fife Villages, will continue being maintained as before.