COUNCILLORS fear that Fife Council's proposals to "rewild" areas in Benarty, Cardenden and Lochgelly will effectively see green spaces abandoned and overgrown.

Locals have also complained about a lack of consultation and there are concerns the idea is being driven by cost-cutting rather than environmental and aesthetic reasons, and will see the loss of historic play and recreation areas.

Councillor Linda Erskine said: "If we were truly talking about rewilding we would be looking at significant investment to rewild the proposed areas.

"Also we need to prove that the officers' proposals are the best fit for local people.

"I have been in discussion with a number of very concerned constituents who don’t want to lose recreational land which has been used on a daily basis, some for over 100 years.

"Locals have been so concerned that there are hundreds of signatures on a local petition and over 400 people have been involved in a local Facebook campaign.”

Cllr Mary Lockhart said Benarty has multiple areas which have been earmarked for rewilding, adding that villagers have been up in arms in the Flockhouse area where the project appears to have commenced and residents say the overgrown area is now a receptacle for used needles.

She said: “I have no problem with rewilding if it is undertaken properly, however what has happened is not rewilding.

"I have been involved with rewilding projects with the National Trust and so far this bears no resemblance to any true rewilding project.”

A constituent in Cardenden had told the councillors: “So far rewilding has consisted of letting our lovely green areas go to seed."

In Lochgelly the Wheel Brae is earmarked to be returned to nature, as is The Green Hill in Cardenden, despite the latter being used daily for play by children and a favourite spot for childminders as it is secure and safe from traffic.

A petition against this proposal has already gathered more than 200 signatures in Cardenden.

Cllr Erskine said: “I was first made aware of the proposals some months ago and was concerned that the rewilding project had been instigated solely as part of budget savings.

"Of greater concern was the issue about lack of consultation with local people.

"Whilst Mary and I were happy to have public meetings we unfortunately couldn’t undertake these because of the COVID restrictions."

She added: "No one is against rewilding if it is done properly and where our villagers want them. Unfortunately, in some areas illegal dumping has already taken place, for example we had an old washing machine left in the long grass in Balgreggie Park.

"Not a great start to encourage local people to believe that we are about to deliver a quality rewilding project.”

Earlier this summer, convener of the environment and protective services committee, Cllr Ross Vettraino, had explained the idea: "Over the last few months, while we have been in lockdown, many areas of grassland have grown wild, attracting bees and insects to wild flowers and grasses, and creating areas of natural beauty .

"Rewilding in this way has many biodiversity benefits, supporting a variety of wildlife, cutting down on the use of herbicides and weedkillers, and helping in the fight we all face against climate change by reducing fuel use and air pollution.

"The council is keen to consult with communities on how it manages green space across Fife in the future with more emphasis on rewilding and leaving more areas to grow naturally."

Councillors are meeting officers on Monday and are looking for your views on the proposal.