Mature shrubs in Bexley parks and verges are not just being cut back to the ground to save having to do any more trimming for a few years, but are being dug up completely. Two of the latest cases involve important areas for House Sparrows, which have been in serious decline nationally.
An ostensibly rather dull monoculture ‘hedge’ of non-native evergreens by the Magistrate’s Court in Bexleyheath has been ripped out and replaced with two much smaller species. As one of these is Rosemary it will be better for pollinators, but as the previous planting was used as an alternate roost to the one next to the nearby multi-storey car park by good numbers of Sparrows, this looks to be a poor decision from a conservation perspective.
Now shrubs beds used by House Sparrows in Northumberland Heath recreation ground have been torn out. This park has recorded the highest number of Sparrows in the Borough – with counts of over 150 – and continues to host higher numbers of the species than elsewhere in the area. Whilst possibly planted, the Gorse bush, which at least presented a reminder of the former heathland nature of the area, was not spared either.
Given that Bexley Council has previously admitted to not taking biodiversity into account when the new grounds maintenance contract was let – despite Bexley Natural Environment Forum asking in advance to be consulted about what should have been a fundamental aspect of the arrangements – it is highly unlikely that this latest rash of heavy-handed vegetation ‘management’ will have been informed by any intelligence about the wildlife situation on the ground at all.
Whilst this may not be a priority issue when set against the recent spate of appalling planning decisions regarding several of Bexley’s top wildlife sites, it speaks yet again to the general disregard for nature in the Borough across the spectrum of Council operations. It is also the case that the Council has a formal policy of improving **at least** 15 parks and open spaces for biodiversity. We think this should mean a net improvement. It is not clear how these latest actions will help deliver on that objective when what is needed is more structural diversity in vegetation in most parks, not less.
If you have a bed of shrubs in your local park that is important for wildlife, or simply attractive, and you do not want it replaced let us know. We also suggest that you try writing to Parks & Open Spaces Nature Conservation Officer Mark Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org , asking him to assure you that they will be left in situ, and that you copy in your three Ward Councillors – if you go here and enter your postcode their details will come up:
We would be interested in seeing the responses.