District council bosses go wild for ‘nature recovery network’ that will see areas targeted in every East Devon town

Proposals to ‘stitch back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land’ have been adopted by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

Cabinet members last week unanimously backed eight recommendations aimed at improving biodiversity and natural habitats through ‘re-wilding’ and implementing nature recovery corridors.

These will be adopted across the district as part of the authority’s Climate Change Strategy, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

Members heard the plans are part of a bid to develop a ‘nature recovery network’.

The concept will allow wildlife to thrive and plants, animals, seeds, nutrients and water to move from place to place enabling the natural world to adapt to change.

EDDC’s strategic lead for housing, health and environment John Golding told the meeting that, among the measures, the council would identify a suitable re-wilding site in every East Devon town within a year.

He said in a report: “To recover, wildlife cannot be confined to nature reserves.

“We should create a nature recovery network that extends into every part of our towns, villages and countryside, bringing wildlife and the benefits of a healthy natural world into every part of life.

“Letting flowers bloom along road verges, installing green roofs across our skylines, planting more street trees to give people shady walks in the summer, encouraging whole communities to garden for wild plants and animals – it’s time to stitch back together Britain’s tattered natural fabric of wild land.

“In doing so, we will not only help nature recover, but enable even more people to experience our natural world.”

Mr Golding’s report highlighted existing successes such as Exmouth long grass areas that have been created in Phear Park, Brixington Park and at the St John’s Road playing field.

Wildflower areas established in The Byes, Sidmouth, were also praised.

Mr Golding added: “In some areas we may experience a proliferation of litter, dog mess, and create vision barriers on road verges.

“Re-wilding will not be appropriate at every space and there will always remain a need to keep some areas cut tight with short grass giving a more manicured appearance.”

Councillor Denise Bickley told the meeting: “This is really forward-thinking, focused, and draws so many sources of information together and is easy to follow.

“For relatively little spend, and it could even save us money, with the environment at the fore, we will see improvements.

“We need to be transparent about what we are doing and why we are doing it, as looking after the environment no longer means cutting the grass and keeping it tidy. We are setting a great initiative here.”

Cllr Marianne Rixson added: “Nature has an amazing ability to recover, we just need to give it a chance.”

Ed Dolphin of Sidmouth Arboretum, said: “There is a need for action. The natural environment is in crisis.”

Cabinet members agreed to:

  • Extending coverage of nature recovery networks and re-wilding projects, carefully defining our aspirations;
  • Working through green spaces identified in the council’s Green Space Plan and assessing whether they are suitable for recovery/re-wilding;
  • Identifying a suitable re-wilding site in every East Devon town as an exemplar within a year;
  • Identifying areas of housing land suitable for nature recovery and/or re-wilding and consulting with tenants with proposals;
  • Mapping and recording areas identified for recovery/re-wilding and monitoring the benefits arising from the process;
  • Establishing an improved understanding of the position of fauna and flora species in the district;
  • Establishing a campaign to promote the benefits of re-wilding in a range of settings;
  • Establishing a project group, adopting the guiding principles, and specifying what constitutes re-wilding and how this can be achieved in the district.

Mr Golding added: “We should operate a properly-orchestrated campaign and actively promote re-wilding, encouraging gardeners and people with small green spaces to participate in re-wilding, recognising the value that all natural spaces can contribute towards the diversification goal.

“We also need to be working with partners and landowners as there are many groups who share our ambitions and we should be working with the Devon Wildlife Trust, Clinton Devon, AONB managers, Jurassic Coast Trust, allotments, farmers to name just a few.

“Collectively there is a large and influential group of partners here that could make a transformational difference to the project, and there are opportunities in people’s private gardens and how they form part of the overall wildlife matrix.”

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