AN Earby councillor is upset that a popular open space on the edge of walking country is being left to deteriorate.

Cllr Mike Goulthorp (Cons, Earby) explained that Birley Playing Fields, near the Earby Youth Hostel, on Birch Hall Lane, was gifted to Earby by a farmer in the early 1900s on the understanding that it could always be used as a recreational facility.

But at a recent meeting of the West Craven Area Committee, Cllr Goulthorp said the area was being neglected.

"Birley Playing Fields is an upland open space that has been used for picnicking for a long time.

"It's now untidy and unhygenic," said Cllr Goulthorp. "It's not a nice place to be.

"What I can't understand is why leave such a large open space to deteriorate. It's a shame because it's an asset.

"There are not many areas like it adjacent to the waterfalls. The council should try and put it back like it was."

But Kieron Roberts, Pendle Council's service development officers who attended the committee meeting, said that recreational areas and highway verges used to receive 12 cuts a year - five by Lancashire County Council and seven by Pendle.

However, budget constraints have meant that Pendle has reduced its number of cuts to three.

Mr Roberts said: "We're a really small team compared to five or ten years ago. We can't physically get around all the rural areas."

Cllr Goulthorp said entrances to the field are cut only a few times a year and then "everything in the middle is left".

But Mr Roberts explained the council is looking at extending the use of wildflower areas because budgets for grass cutting and weed killing are likely to be slashed even further, from £124,000 a year to £95,000 by 2016, meaning the number cuts could be reduced from eight to six.

"This is a unique area," added Cllr Goulthorp. "Every field around it is open countryside. It's a gateway to walking country.

"It's the wrong regime being implemented. I understand it needs cutting less, but it needs to be cut properly."