Dagenham wildlife expert attacks plans to halve ranger service

A wildlife expert has warned that protected species could suffer if cash-strapped council chiefs halve the park ranger service in Barking and Dagenham.

Steve Drake, 51, hit out at plans to axe seven rangers who help to look after the Chase nature reserve in Dagenham that shelters rare migrating birds from Asia and Africa, unusual female black poplar trees, great crested newts, water voles.

He warned the proposed �260,000 cutbacks could lead to more park vandalism and crime, wild camping, fly-tipping and drastically reduce the number of outdoor school activities.

Mr Drake has collected more than 250 signatures against these cuts.

The wildlife photographer edits the Dagenham Chase Local Nature Reserve website dedicated to the 48 hectare protected space in Dagenham Road.

Mr Drake, of Eastbrook Drive, Dagenham, said: “They need to rethink the situation. They’ve invested a lot of money in the place.

“Barking and Dagenham Council is really lucky having a nature reserve.

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“It would be a shame, by taking the rangers away it would become run down with vandalism.

“It’s going to affect all the parks in Barking and Dagenham. The remaining rangers that stay are basically going to be used for everything.

“A lot of parks are going to get a lot less attention than then used to have. Eastbrookend Country Park needs daily attention. It’s huge.”

The savings would see park events drop from around 400 to 100 a year, the outdoor school programme axed and the number of rangers fall to five.

A Barking and Dagenham Council spokesman said: “No final decisions have been made on savings’ proposals.

“However, a reduction to the park rangers service is one of the difficult options the council is having to consider in order to save �8million for 2013/14, and a further �15m the following year.

“If this saving is approved we will be looking at ways of mitigating the loss of these posts wherever we can.”

To sign the online petition, log on to the the Dagenham Chase Local Nature Reserve website or follow the following link