Council pledges to protect biodiversity
Gloucestershire County Council agree to form a highways and biodiversity working group, aiming to protect and encourage endangered species of plant and wildlife to flourish in grass verges.
At Wednesday’s (27th) full council meeting members voted unanimously to support a motion put forward by green party councillor, Rachel Smith. The request presented by Cllr Smith was to set up a working group that’s purpose is to protect and support biodiversity in Gloucestershire.
Once put together, the group will work with district, town and parish councils to understand how highways crews can maintain grass verges, making them help rather than hinder biodiversity in the county. Another priority for the group will be to make sure the highway remains safe for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles alike at the same time.
Cllr Rachel Smith (Stroud: Minchinhampton, Green), member of the Labour and Green Co-operative Alliance at Gloucestershire County Council, said: “I am very pleased to see so much support for this motion. Grass verges are a last remaining refuge for many bees, butterflies, birds, bats and bugs as the wider countryside becomes increasingly hostile. I look forward to working with the cabinet member for highways to address what Gloucestershire can do to help protect and encourage species of plants and wildlife.”
Cllr Vernon Smith, (Tewkesbury, Conservative) cabinet member for highways, said, “The council cuts the grass verges to keep the highway safe for all road users, but we try to leave some of them as long as possible for our wildlife. That said, I do look forward to reviewing the way we maintain our verges to try to strike a balance between safety and safeguarding biodiversity.”
Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach, Liberal Democrat), leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Gloucestershire County Council, echoed the sentiments: “I am pleased to support this motion because this is an issue which has already been raised in the Cotswolds. In Cold Aston parish I’ve been working with Highways and the Parish Council there to ensure that verges are managed properly with an eye on making sure the flora and fauna are kept where possible whilst maintaining road safety.”
The motion stated:
“This council notes that in 1935 almost 40% of the Cotswolds landscape was covered with wildflower-rich grassland. Since then, unimproved grassland sites have fallen to just 1.5% of the area of the Cotswolds.
This council further notes:
- That thousands of species are at risk of extinction due to habitat loss.
- That the loss of biodiversity is having serious consequences for the resilience of ecosystem functions on which our communities and countryside depend.
- With the loss of lowland meadows and pastures across the UK, grassy road verges in particular offer vital refuges for plants and wildflowers.”
It called for:
“This council therefore resolves to set up a working group to:
- Work with districts, towns and parishes to develop highways management systems that protect and support biodiversity in Gloucestershire.
- Review the GCC highways and biodiversity guidance for Gloucestershire, taking into consideration Plantlife's Road Verges and Wildlife Management Guidelines http://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/uploads/documents/Road_Verge_Campaign_full_guidelines_2015.pdf
- Embed action points into highway management contracts which give contractors clear instructions and communicate expectations. For example, the pro-active management of registered conservation verges.”