Reporting Person – Corporate Leadership Team
At its meeting on 29 July 2021, the Council referred the following Notice of Motion to the Executive.
Councillor A Kirby
“Pollinator Plan for Woking
This Council notes the systemic importance of pollinators to our food supply and economy, as well as their intrinsic value to nature in Woking Borough. This Council also notes the success and popularity elsewhere across the UK of the ‘No Mow May’ campaign, during which grass verges were left undisturbed by mowing during this critical month for flowers, wildlife and pollinators in particular.
The Council acknowledges the existing local work in this area of the ‘Planet Woking’, ‘Woking Environment Action Group’ and other voluntary organisations, in supporting bees and other pollinators through the sowing and planting of wildflowers. The Council recognises the importance of wild meadow spaces to the public realm, residents’ enjoyment of the Borough – and the benefits to the visual appeal of our communities.
The Council also acknowledges the success of its own existing wildflower strategies, which have so far been run on a more site-specific basis.
Accordingly, this Council resolves to instruct Officers to arrange for a broad and Borough-wide set of policies, classifying our grass cutting activities in each location according to the frequency of mowing required. This should result in a set of Borough-wide ‘wildness grades’ associated with different levels of mowing.
This system should be designed to achieve four key things:
1) Maximise the level of diverse wild flora and fauna in all council-maintained grassland, with the first assumption for maximum biodiversity
2) Continue to ensure public safety and amenity where essential (such as sports pitches or road verges)
3) Create an easily understandable set of ‘wildness grades’ to enable residents to understand and engage with the Council’s grass cutting policies
4) Allow Council contractors to refocus on keeping public footpaths clear of vegetation
This Council resolves that the vast majority of grassland within this scheme will be left unmown during the entire period 1st May – 1st June, excluding only the most exceptional of locations within the ‘least’ wild category, as outlined for exceptional reasons of safety or public utility mentioned above. Beyond this initial distinction of inclusion in the ‘No Mow May’ principle, further grades of reduced cutting should be considered – up to and including a policy in some locations of cutting grass only once per year in August.
Council instructs Officers and the relevant Portfolio Holder to create a clear set of such ‘wildness grades’ for Woking grassland and to allocate all grassy areas maintained by Woking Borough Council to one of these ‘grades’ – with a preference for the most wild to suit each location.
Council also resolves that Officers should report back to Full Council at their earliest convenience with estimates of the potential net savings from such a systematic and organised policy of reduced grass-cutting, so that all Councillors can debate the best use of these savings for other purposes.”
Councillor Kirby attended the meeting and spoke in support of the Motion. The Portfolio Holder for Climate Change Strategy, Councillor Davis, expressed disappointment at the Motion and was of the opinion that the issues raised by the Motion should have been discussed at the cross-party Climate Change Working Group beforehand. The Portfolio Holder drew attention to the Officer Comment to the Motion and the work that was already taking place regarding the delivery of wildflowers in suitable locations in the Borough. Councillor Howard, Chairman of the Climate Change Working Group, reported that the Council’s Green Infrastructure Team was currently working on solutions to achieve biodiversity benefits and increase resident engagement, whilst striking a careful balance that respected the wide range of residents’ views on the topic. Councillor Howard advised that the matter would be discussed at the Climate Change Working Group, at its meeting on 1 December 2021, and that the Group would make recommendations to the Executive. An amended Motion was proposed by Councillor Howard and agreed by the Executive. The amended Motion to read as follows:
“Council recognises the seriousness of the loss of wildflower meadows and the decline in the numbers of insect pollinators.
Officers will present a report to the December meeting of the Climate Change Working Group addressing these problems and incorporating such concepts as selective mowing and “No Mow May”.”
RECOMMENDED to Council
That the Motion, as amended by the Executive, be supported.