Wildlife-friendly public spaces: progress but more urgency needed

Cllr Stephen McKenna

In September 2019, after Surrey County Council had adopted a policy for improving biodiversity in open spaces, Green councillor Stephen McKenna formally proposed that Reigate & Banstead Borough Council should adopt similar measures. These are important particularly to benefit pollinators, which are in serious decline.

His motion called for the timing and frequency of grass cutting to be reduced at public open spaces to enable recovery of wildlife. He also proposed that the use of the toxic herbicide glyphosate be ceased.

On 25 March – eighteen months after Stephen tabled his motion – the Council’s Executive finally confirmed that the Borough was working to implement the motion. They have reviewed grass cutting regimes across a number of parks, countryside sites and highways verges. The use of glyphosate is being scaled back, with a reduction from three applications a year to two, and is being used in a more targeted way, for example to exterminate invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed.

Cllr McKenna said, “I hope that over time these measures will make a significant contribution to enhancing our biodiversity, but it’s frustrating that it has taken eighteen months even to get an update. An important part of my motion was that the Council should write a Pollinator Action Plan. That is still outstanding.

“Although the Council Executive say they support the aims there was a degree of equivocation as the Executive Member said the public did not like areas being left untidy. So we must continue to hold the Council to account. There is a biodiversity emergency and we need to do all we can to protect our wildlife – more urgency is needed.”

Find out more:

Read the Council Executive’s report on what they’ve done in response to the motion – on pages 163-166 of their Agenda Reports Pack

View the webcast of the meeting

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