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East Devon goes wild for flowers

Thursday, 1 October 2020 14:34

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter

It's wild at West Hill, East Devon (courtesy: Claire Wright, LDRS)

Council adopts 're-wilding' proposals

Proposals to "stitch back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land" have been adopted by East Devon District Council.

The council’s cabinet has unanimously backed eight recommendations - aimed at achieving improved biodiversity and natural habitats through re-wilding and implementing nature recovery corridors – that could be adopted across the district as part of its Climate Change Strategy.

Councillors heard the proposals are part of plans to develop a ‘nature recovery network’, a concept that allows wildlife to thrive and plants, animals, seeds, nutrients and water to move from place to place and enables the natural world to adapt to change.

John Golding, the council’s strategic lead for housing, health and environment, told the meeting the proposals would see the council identify a suitable re-wilding site in every East Devon town within a year, identify areas of housing land suitable for nature recovery/ re-wilding, and establish a campaign to promote the benefits of rewilding in a range of settings.

His report to the meeting added: “To recover, wildlife cannot be confined to nature reserves. We should create a Nature Recovery Network that extends into every part of our towns, villages and countryside, bringing wildlife and the benefits of a healthy natural world into every part of life.

“Letting flowers bloom along road verges, installing green roofs across our skylines, planting more street trees to give people shady walks in the summer, encouraging whole communities to garden for wild plants and animals – it’s time to stitch back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land. In doing so, we will not only help nature recover, but enable even more people to experience our natural world.”

Mr Golding’s report highlighted some of the successes that have already been achieved, including the long grass areas in Exmouth that have been created in Phear Park, Brixington Park and St Johns Road playing field and the wildflower areas established in The Byes, Sidmouth.

But he said that not all areas are suitable for re-wilding. He added: “In some areas we may experience a proliferation of litter, dog mess, and create vision barriers on road verges. Re-wilding will not be appropriate at every space and there will always remain a need to keep some areas cut tight with short grass giving a more manicured appearance.”

Cllr Denise Bickley said that she was delighted with the tone of the report. She added: “This is really forward thinking, focused, and draws so many sources of information together and is easy to follow. For relatively little spend, and it could even save us money, with the environment at the fore, we will see improvements.

“We need to be transparent about what we are doing and why we are doing it, as looking after the environment no longer means cutting the grass and keeping it tidy. We are setting a great initiative here.”

Cllr Marianne Rixson added: “Nature has an amazing ability to recover, we just need to give it a chance,” while Ed Dolphin of the Sidmouth Arboretum Project said: “There is a need for action. The natural environment is in crisis.”

The cabinet unanimously agreed to adopt the recommendations in the report, which are:

  • To extend our coverage of nature recovery networks and rewilding projects, carefully defining our aspirations;
  • To work through the green spaces identified in our Green Space Plan and assess whether they are suitable for recovery/re-wilding;
  • To identify a suitable re-wilding site in every East Devon town as an exemplar within a year
  • To identify areas of Housing land suitable for nature recovery and/or re-wilding and consult with tenants with proposals
  • To map and record areas identified for recovery/re-wilding and monitor the benefits arising from the process
  • To establish an improved understanding of the position of fauna and flora species in the district
  • To establish a campaign to promote the benefits of rewilding in a range of settings
  • To establish a project group, adopt the guiding principles, and specify what constitutes re-wilding and how this can be achieved in the district.
  • Mr Golding added: “We should operate a properly orchestrated campaign and actively promote re-wilding, encouraging gardeners and people with small green spaces to participate in re-wilding recognising the value that all natural spaces can contribute towards the diversification goal.

“We also need to be working with partners and landowners as there are many groups who share our ambitions and we should be working with the Devon Wildlife Trust, Clinton Devon, AONB managers, Jurassic Coast Trust, Allotments, farmers to name just a few. Collectively there is a large and influential group of partners here that could make a transformational difference to the project, and there are opportunities in people’s private gardens and how they form part of the overall wildlife matrix.”


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