More than 80% of the public support the idea of councils cutting grass areas less frequently to protect the nation’s bees, according to a survey by Friends of the Earth and Buglife.
Meanwhile the Bexley Conservative administration is set to spent £90K per annum on more frequent grass mowing and more frequent hedge cutting under its ‘cleaner and greener’ mantra.
Given that the Council has already admitted that it re-let the current grounds maintenance contract a couple of years ago without taking biodiversity issues into account, despite being asked beforehand to consult Friends Groups through Bexley Natural Environment Forum, and given that it has subsequently ripped out shrub beds in parks and other places that are important for House Sparrows, there is a worry that this is another manifestation of the sort of unimaginative ‘tidiness’ approach that reduces the abundance of our local wildlife rather than seeking to enhance it.
It is particularly galling to note that during various budget consultations and park sell-off ‘consultations’ the Forum repeatedly proposed to the Council that it should save money and benefit wildlife by cutting less grass and less often across parks and open spaces, and that the ability to sustain the extra spend now announced has probably come, at least in part, from those sell-offs.
Given the amount of designated wildlife land in the Borough that this Council has approved building on over the last two years, and with residents still driving wildlife out of large numbers of front garden by smothering them with lifeless hard surfacing to park multiple vehicles, every extra dandelion that can manage to put up a few flowers and ever head of grass seed in a slightly longer sward is going to be of benefit.
The Council’s Parks and Open Spaces strategy says that it will improve a minimum of 15 sites for wildlife. A quick way to do that is for Cllr. Craske to chill out, keep off more grass and just let it grow.
As for the areas where there are rarer plants that do require more ‘grazing’ by the mowers to survive, local wildlife experts are happy to advise if the Council will listen and demonstrate some flexibility on what is cut, where and when. It’s not rocket science.
Money to recommence street tree planting and aftercare, and to support the setting up of new open space ‘Friends’ groups is welcome, however.
Chris Rose, Bexley Natural Environment Forum.