Posted: Wed 15th Mar 2023

Grass cutting reduction about protecting biodiversity not money saving, says Flintshire councillor

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Mar 15th, 2023

A reduction in grass-cutting across Flintshire is about protecting biodiversity rather than to cut costs, a senior councillor has said.

Flintshire Council’s Labour-led cabinet reviewed the authority’s grass cutting policy at its monthly meeting in which members welcomed a focus on biodiversity and protecting nature.

According to the report presented to cabinet, and after all-councillor workshops, there will be fewer cuts to grass and verges in areas where it is safe and suitable to do so, to protect wildflowers and encourage biodiversity.

Mold East Cllr Chris Bithell was among those who welcomed the report at the meeting and called out cynics tempted to dismiss the policy as a cost-cutting exercise, citing the threat to nature highlighted by a current David Attenborough television series.

“I am just hoping we can get some good publicity on this”, Cllr Bithell said.

“As we all know there are cynics out there who will simply say this is a cost-cutting exercise, but there’s more to it than that.

“Obviously we are doing something very positive here to save wildflowers, to improve the diversity and there is a bigger picture here which has to get across and I hope we inform people that we are tied into the same programme that the Welsh Government, David Attenborough and co are, in saving the planet.

“The comments made in the report about the loss of particular insects and species is quite damaging, we have to recognise this and we have recognised it. We’re doing our bit as an authority and I hope we can get this message across to everyone in our community.”

The report to members stated: “Safety will remain the priority for grass cutting and there will be limited opportunities for certain areas, such as rural road verges and visibility splays.

“However, there are opportunities to collect cuttings when we cut on flat verges, which could reduce the number of cuts required.

“The main changes proposed to the policy include reduced mowing on all suitable verges (avoiding visibility splays and banks), allowing the grass/wildflowers to grow in certain areas and increasing the number of areas included in reduced mow or wildflower management to improve the biodiversity.”

An all-member workshop was held in January for councillors to learn more about the management of road verges and amenity grasslands, wildflowers and biodiversity.

In the report back to the cabinet, members were told that there was an eagerness to find out about the use of pesticides, and there was also broad support for the reduction or cessation of the use of pesticides by the authority and its contractors.

Introducing the report, cabinet member for Streetscene, Llanfynydd Cllr Dave Hughes said: “This workshop was well attended and went down really well.

“Under the Environment Act 2016 public authorities must maintain and enhance biodiversity.

“Sympathetic mowing to road verges and amenity grasslands can help meet this duty.”

Caergwrle Councillor Dave Healey, cabinet member for climate change, welcomed the report in light of the climate and nature emergencies declared by the Welsh Government in recent years.

He said: “I think that is a very real serious issue that attention is being drawn to it in the David Attenborough programmes that are on at the moment.

“I am absolutely delighted we are doing our bit within Flintshire, within our own capabilities, to do what we can to address the nature emergency.

“It doesn’t stop there. It is up to everyone to try to do their bit to really save nature.”

The cabinet agreed to support the work undertaken and consider opportunities to increase biodiversity in managing road verges and amenity grasslands.

Cabinet also approved the changes to the grass cutting policy and supported the targeted reduction in the use of pesticides.

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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