MONEY saving plans which will see grass in parks grown into "meadows" have been criticised.

Announced among a raft of suggestions to save £2.32 million, Lewisham Council hopes the idea will slash £50,000 from its parks budget.

Grass mowing programmes will be cut back at four parks across the borough in order to create new meadow areas.

The proposal, along with job cuts and increased costs for services throughout the council, has been approved by the mayor and cabinet.

Councillor Mark Morris, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said he is sceptical about the plans because of the council's poor record of grass cutting.

He said: "It seems to be just an excuse for not cutting the grass.

"Saying it is a meadow isn't good enough. It needs to be explained what it would look like, how big an area it would be and properly justified.

"Calling long grass a meadow doesn't make it right."

The council, which aspires to be the cleanest borough in London, has earnmarked Blackheath Common, Beckenham Place Park in Beckenham, Mountsfield Park in Catford and Hilly Fields in Ladywell, for long grass meadows.

The £50,000 will be saved by reducing the payments to contractors Glendale Grounds Management which currently looks after parks and open spaces.

Frank Smith, chairman of the Blackheath Society, said: "There is already an area of the heath left fairly wild which is welcomed by people as it brings variety.

"But a lot of people use the mowed areas so we would like to know exactly what they're proposing to leave uncut."

Andrew Brown, cabinet member for the environment, said environmental consultants were employed to advise where additional meadow grass would be beneficial to wildlife.

He added it would be a popular way to enhance bio-diversity.

A consultation will be carried out with park users and the new meadows will be created in spring 2005.