Lib Dem Council commits to fund “rewilding” to increase biodiversity
A major step forward has been taken by Lib Dem-run Three Rivers Council in its climate change objectives by agreeing to fund a new grassland management plan from April onwards.
The council already maintains 54% of its grassland as long grass, and agreed in November to cease regular mowing of up to 50% of the grassland it owns, replacing this with hay meadow management, mowing and lifting the grass at least once a year.
A detailed independent Biodiversity Opportunities Audit report had been commissioned from Countryside Management but its recommendations and Action Plan were not due until mid-March. The objective of the audit was to identify opportunities for biodiversity improvements across the district, including grassland management, and to produce a detailed plan to meet biodiversity opportunities.
Rather than await the outcome of the independent audit, the council has now decided in advance to include funding in its budget for the new financial year to enable the recommendations from the audit to be carried out as from this year rather than risk any delays. The council budget is set to be agreed on 22 February.
Cllr Phil Williams, the council's Lead Member for Environmental Services, Climate Change and Sustainability said: "We already have many areas of grassland in Three Rivers where we are cutting the grass less frequently in order to increase biodiversity.
"We want to do everything we can to give more opportunity for wildlife to flourish and help support the aims of the district's Climate Change Emergency and Sustainability Strategy. At the same time we need to continue to ensure we balance the needs of all the users of our parks and open spaces. The recommendations of the independent audit will enable us to have robust plan that helps meet our climate change objectives."
Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, said: "By committing, as the administration, to fund a new grassland management plan in our Budget to be agreed on 22 February, in advance, we are showing our total commitment to tackle climate change issues in Three Rivers. This is alongside appointing a new Biodiversity Officer, and our plans to fund a second officer as well.
"We could have delayed waiting for the detailed audit but we wanted to make sure that council and officers have the resources ready to hand for new equipment and the Action Plan right away and this will do just that."
The council has agreed to public consultation after it has implemented a revised regime to assess its impact rather than delay implementation when the normal cutting season starts in April.
Cllr Wiliams added: "Already large areas of grassland in Three Rivers have become thriving habitats for wild flowers as well as bugs, bees and other pollinating insects thanks to an initiative to cut grass less often through our pilots and the plans that will be agreed from the independent audit along with us funding any new equipment and staff, if required, will further help us achieve our climate change targets."