Councils urged to introduce pollinator action plans to help bees and other insects

Councils have been urged to bring in policies that allow wildflowers to thrive on roadside verges an

Councils have been urged to bring in policies that allow wildflowers to thrive on roadside verges and help pollinators Picture: James Wilson - Credit: James Wilson

East of England councils are being urged to do more to help Britain’s bees and other pollinators – such as cutting areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow.

The call by Friends of the Earth and Buglife comes after a survey found that only two English county councils have comprehensive pollinator action plans in place – with a further four in the process of drawing one up – none of these are in the East of England.

All 27 English county councils were contacted and of the 19 that replied, they found Devon and Dorset have pollinator action plans in place and that Hampshire, Kent, Worcestershire and Somerset are in the process of developing one.

Others said they are taking steps to help pollinators, even though they don’t currently have plans to introduce pollinator action plans.

Essex County Council responded and said although it does not have a pollinator plan, it is taking “significant and positive action that we believe is beneficial to bees and other pollinating insects such as hoverflies, beetles, flies, butterflies and moths”.

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The council said these actions include managing over 1,100 hectares of wildlife-rich meadow, wetland and woodland habitat including six Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), 35 Local Wildlife Sites and 20 ancient woodlands.

The authority also said it is managing over 100 Special Roadside Verges in partnership with Essex Wildlife Trust covering more than 40km. It added: “Other than these sites, all rural verges are cut in the spring and autumn. The cut in the spring is a safety cut, this it to ensure visibility is maintained for road users and allows some growth of vegetation. In the autumn, where budgets permit, we carry out a full width cut of rural verges.”

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The EADT contacted Suffolk County Council senior ecologist Andrew Murray-Wood who said the council’s key pollinator strategy is linked to its network of Roadside Nature Reserves - a scheme that sees some grass verges individually managed to benefit scarce or unusual plants or fungi.

Mr Murray-Wood said ecological advice is offered to Suffolk County Council workers to promote the creation of habitat and the spread of nectar-producing plant species.

He continued: “This information is attached to many of the reports that we send out to colleagues who are undertaking works on SCC sites such as schools. We have developed good working relationships with those responsible for grounds maintenance and highways verges and give conservation advice at every available opportunity.

“We are acutely aware of the importance of, for example, a sympathetic mowing regime that promotes the conservation of flowering plants to provide forage for pollinators and are working closely with all of our colleagues to see what more we can do.”

Buglife pollinator advisor, Paul Evans, added:”Local authorities need to be leading the way, both by demonstrating good practice in their parks and verge management and by enthusing and helping their local communities to take action themselves.

“By developing a local pollinator action plan, local authorities can ensure that the needs of pollinators are considered across all their functions, and that positive action is embedded in their work into the longer-term.”

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