Friends of the Earth survey finds support for less grass cutting and more wildflower planting

The public is happy for councils to reduce grass-cutting to save money, so long as they realise that this is good for bees, according to a recent survey.

Friends of the Earth/Buglife survey: 92% supported more planting in parks and community spaces
Friends of the Earth/Buglife survey: 92% supported more planting in parks and community spaces
Campaign groups Friends of the Earth and Buglife commissioned YouGov to survey 1,643 adults last month in a study weighted to be representative of the British adult population.

The survey asked:

"There are different ways of creating or improving the habitat for bees and other wildlife. To what extent would you support or oppose local councils doing each of the following?"

The answers were:

  • "Cutting some areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow". -  81% supported (46% ‘strongly’; 35% ‘tend to support’).
  • "Reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides" - 88% supported (61% ‘strongly’; 27% ‘tend to support’)
  • "Planting more wildflowers and other plants in local parks and community spaces." - 92% supported (66% ‘strongly’; 26% ‘tend to support’)

Burnley Council has saved around £58,000 per year so far from reducing grass cutting, with savings expected to increase. Head of green spaces and amenities Simon Goff is speaking at a Bee Summit in central London today, organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute.

He said: "The council is facing huge cuts and so we are rethinking how we manage our green spaces. We are focussing on what is important to park users such as removing litter, maintaining play areas and tackling dog fouling and we are saving money in other areas such as introducing more meadow areas and replacing expensive bedding scheme with herbaceous perennials. This saves money, reduces CO2 emissions, increases biodiversity and creates more attractive and interesting parks."

Since 1900, the UK has lost 20 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction. None are protected by law. Across Europe nearly one in 10 wild bee species face extinction.

So far only a few councils, including Devon, Cornwall, East Sussex and Bristol have introduced comprehensive pollinator action plans. Environment service director at Dorset County Council Peter Moore said the council, which adopted a new strategy for managing highway verges in 2014, has a more targeted approach to cutting, as well as wildlife-friendly techniques.

"We estimate this has saved us £100,000 over the last two years, with a further £50,000 in savings anticipated in 2017-18. A significant amount of this saving is due to reducing the frequency of cutting, showing that pollinator-friendly approaches can save money too."

Buglife and Friends of the Earth are today publishing a new guide for local authorities on the measures they can take to help pollinators, due to launch at the bee summit.

‘Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan’ recommends:

•    Use the planning system to protect and increase pollinator-friendly habitat.
•    Manage council-owned or council-managed land to benefit bees and other pollinators, including: cutting some areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow; reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides; planting more wildflowers and other bee friendly plants in local parks and community spaces.
•    Encouraging others to act. Local authorities can work with and encourage schools, businesses, local communities and individuals to help develop the flower-rich environments which our native pollinators need. They can raise awareness of the work that is being done and why it matters.  Bringing people and nature closer together benefits health and well-being.

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: "Local councils have a vital part to play in helping the UK’s under-threat bee populations.

"Policies, such as allowing grass to grow on roadside verges and in certain areas in parks, will help bees, save cash-strapped councils money and are supported by the public too."

"We hope many more councils will stand up for our bees and nature and introduce comprehensive pollinator action plans in the months ahead."

Lead pollinator advisor at Buglife Dr Paul Evans said: "We are not advocating abandoning areas of council land but introducing a new less intensive form of grassland management. Effectively cutting grass less in the right places will not only help to counter pollinator decline it will benefit wildlife and people too. The message is a win, win, win for councils save money, help nature, enrich people’s lives."

Friends of the Earth, supported by Buglife with sponsorship by Waitrose has organised The Great British Bee Count  on 19 May and 30 June.  People can register for a free app on The Great British Bee Count website

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