Bellanaleck village left reeling as council contractor sent to cut grass destroys community garden
The people of Bellanaleck in Co Fermanagh will not be entering for a Best Kept Village award this year after a contractor working for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council "destroyed" their community garden.
A tractor used for cutting silage damaged the public garden by ripping up carefully maintained lawns and leaving large tyre tracks, some measuring up to 18ft, across the facility.
Signs, seats and footpaths were covered in cut grass, while a large portion of the garden wasn't cut at all.
"Our garden has been destroyed. It wouldn't happen at the Broadmeadow (public space in Enniskillen) because the whole country would see it there," one resident told The Impartial Reporter newspaper.
Locals in the picturesque village take great pride in their area and have an agreement with the council that the community garden would be cut three times a year - in May, July and September. But the council's first visit of the year to the garden was only last week.
"They used an agricultural tractor and mower that you would use to do the silage or cut rushes, not cut grass in a community garden," said another resident. "The ground couldn't stand it, there is limited scope for machinery of that size. Some of the wheel tracks are 12 to 18 inches deep.
"Signs and seats are covered in grass, it really is a mess. I was horrified when I first saw it. Nobody can believe it.
"It has made us feel terrible. Sure, it looks awful," he added.
Reluctantly the local resident believes the village will not be entering for a 'Best Kept' award, a national competition that rewards well kept towns and villages, because of the incident.
"We were encouraged to go for Best Kept Village, but that is gone now. How would you enter with that? Sure, when the judges come and see that, you are out," said the resident.
Ulster Unionist councillor Alex Baird, the local representative in the area, described the work carried out by the contractor as "not acceptable".
A spokeswoman for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council said the garden was not owned by the council but explained that the council provided "some assistance with the maintenance of the garden".
"A contractor who has been contracted to cut grass at council facilities undertook grass cutting at Bellanaleck Community Garden last week, which was not to the level of standard expected by the council," she said.
"As soon as this was brought to the attention of the council a meeting was organised with the contractor and repair works implemented."