Tenant farmers could be asked to set aside land for wildflowers and trees in ‘green action plan’ set to go before county council

A 10-point green action plan – aimed at helping to prevent an environmental ‘catastrophe’ – will go before county council chiefs on Thursday, July 25.

Otter Valley representative Claire Wright’s motion proposes supporting tenant Devon County Council (DCC) farmers in setting aside 10 per cent of their land for wildflowers and wildlife.

They would also be asked to earmark a further five per cent for tree planting – and to phase out the use of inorganic fertilisers, such as nitrogen, by 2023.

The proposals also call for pollinators to be given legal protection and for outlets to be urged to ditch stocking bee-harming pesticides.

A final debate on the plan will take place at County Hall – but Councillor Wright says it has received a ‘lukewarm response’ from officers.

DCC declared a climate emergency in February and this month launched a policy on wildflower verges.

In her motion, Councillor Wright says: “Climate change and other human activity is now causing species to decline at a rate unprecedented in human history, with three-quarters of land-based environments and two-thirds of the marine environment significantly altered.

“DCC, with its positive record on the environment, is well-placed to work with others to help mitigate the catastrophe coming our way.”

The motion asks the authority to:

  1. Call on the Government to offer all pollinators full legal protection from harm;
  2. Write to all Devon outlets stocking bee-harming pesticides, and urge them to permanently cancel their order with the suppliers;
  3. Take action to phase out all glyphosate pesticides used in council weed spraying or any other council-related activity, by December 2019;
  4. Support DCC tenant farmers in phasing out the use of inorganic fertilisers, such as nitrogen, by December 2023;
  5. Support DCC tenant farmers in setting aside 10 per cent of their land for wildlife and/or wildflower mixes for pollinators;
  6. Work with community groups and non-government organisations such as Devon Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust to support DCC tenant farmers to set aside five per cent of their land for tree planting;
  7. Work with community groups and non-government organisations such as Devon Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust on supporting town and parish councils, schools and community groups to set aside land for tree planting;
  8. Develop a policy on soil health good practice, with an emphasis on allowing land to recover and phasing out damaging chemicals, which are ultimately sterilising the land. This would include setting appropriate and reasonable targets for DCC tenant farmers;
  9. Work with South West Water on a campaign to save water across the county, with an emphasis on education about future water scarcity. Specifically target town and parish councils, community groups and schools to raise awareness of the importance of good water practice;
  10. Support Devon Wildlife Trust’s campaign by calling on the Environment Secretary to allocate a further eight Marine Conservation Zones to Devon’s waters.

Cllr Wright says council officers have ‘responded rather negatively to many of the points’ in the green action plan.

A final recommendation will be agreed tomorrow before the motion – and officer comments – are referred to the newly-formed, multi-agency Environment Board.

The Environment Board next convenes on August 8, when Cllr Wright will address its members.

Read more East Devon farming news here.

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