South West councils leading the way on protecting bees


  • Bee-friendly grass-cutting saves Dorset around £93k pa


Councils in the south west are taking the lead in protecting our bees, a new survey by Friends of the Earth and Buglife revealed today.


The survey by Friends of the Earth and Buglife found:


  •  Devon, Dorset and Cornwall already have a pollinator action plan;
  •  A draft plan for Somerset is expected to be voted on by the council’s Cabinet within the next few weeks.


Across England and Wales the survey showed that the picture is not so positive.


  •   Only two county councils (Devon and Dorset) have pollinator action plans (Cornwall has a plan, but isn’t a county council);
  •   Four county councils are in the process of drawing up action plans: Hampshire, Kent, Worcestershire and Somerset.


Buglife and Friends of the Earth are urging councils across the UK to adopt pollinator action plans. The organisations have produced a comprehensive guide for local authorities; setting out policies that would help pollinators in their area. Habitat loss is a major contributor towards pollinator decline, and the guide includes easy, cost-effective measures to protect and restore pollinator-friendly habitats in their local areas.


One policy suggestion is reducing grass-cutting on road verges and areas in parks, and creating areas rich in wild-flowers. Dorset county council saves around £93k a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed, allowing wildflowers and grasses to flower and set seed


The introduction of local pollinator action plans is likely to prove popular with the public. A YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth and Buglife, published last year, revealed that almost two thirds of the population (63%) agreed that local councils should be doing more to protect Britain’s bees.


Friends of the Earth South West campaigner Sion Elis Williams said:


“South West councils are leading the way on protecting our bees.


“Local authorities have a crucial role to play in protecting our pollinators – and we urge other councils in the region to take action too.


“Measures such as allowing patches of grass to grow longer in parks and on road verges aren’t just good news for bees, they can save thousands of pounds for local councils too.


“From boosting precious wildlife habitat to encouraging residents to take action, our handy guide for local authorities sets out the action councils can take to help save Britain’s bees.”


Paul Evans, Buglife Pollinator Advisor, added:


“Although it is great to see more action being taken for pollinators there is so much more that could be done. 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.”


Dr Annabel King, Senior Ecologist at Dorset County Council said:


“We are very proud to be one of the first local authorities to produce and implement a Pollinator Action Plan.  The Plan is integral to delivering our NERC Act 2006, Biodiversity Duty and is specifically aimed at helping all pollinators, including bees, butterflies and moths, numbers of which have declined severely in the last 50 years.”


“The Plan has enabled us to make significant savings – we save around £93k a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed, allowing wildflowers and grasses to flower and set seed.


“We also never use topsoil when creating new road verges anymore, as subsoil results in wildflower rich grass which is of greater use to pollinators and costs less to manage.  On the Weymouth Relief Road, this method has resulted in management costs of £500 per year, as opposed to an estimated £2700 if the verges had been spread with topsoil.”


Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environmental Services said:


“The pollinator’s action plan was formed to enshrine Devon County Council’s commitment to protecting pollinators through direct land management of the Council’s estate, as a local planning authority and as a strategic authority and to guide action across DCC’s services to support the conservation of bees and other pollinators.


“For instance we have a strict policy which ensures that weed control only takes place to prevent damage to infrastructure like drains carriageways and we do not use insecticides during these routine functions.


“However, it must also be recognised that for any strategy to truly be effective it must be a collective effort and we play a key role in encouraging and supporting organisations and communities and neighbouring councils through the Devon Local Nature Partnership, and encourage the public to take action through our ‘Keep Devon Buzzing’ campaign.


“This has successfully encouraged communities and schools to create areas of wildflowers, build well designed bug hotels and take other positive steps to conserve pollinators across Devon.”