Extinction Rebellion hits out at ‘plastic pitch’ plans for Exeter, fearing no worm food for birds

Extinction Rebellion has hit out at ‘plastic pitch’ plans for Exeter claiming the move to artificial turf could harm birds relying on ‘up to 2.5 million worms’ living under a rugby ground.

Exeter environmental campaigners have made another move in their ongoing protest against an artificial turf pitch planned at a city green space, writes local democracy reporter Bradley Gerrard.

The city’s Extinction Rebellion group has attached what it called a “hard-to-remove” banner high above Flowerpot Playing Field, near St Thomas, where Exeter College is planning to install a new playing pitch.

The campaign group’s banner reads “Save our green space from wildlife destruction and plastic pollution”, and marks the ongoing fight against the scheme that was approved by Exeter City Council in February last year.

Exeter

The group in action, putting up a protest banner.
Photo: Exeter Extinction Rebellion.

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion said the group feared the impact on local wildlife from an artificial playing surface.

“There could be up to 2.5 million worms under the Flowerpot rugby pitch,” the spokesperson said.

“The birds in the fields need these worms for food.

“For some species of UK birds numbers are just a quarter of what they were 50 years ago, and each small decision that makes their lives harder means more birds die.

“We must not allow their extinction.”

Exeter College, which has not yet started the implementing the scheme, said it is committed to “embedding the principles of sustainable living and development” across all its activities, and that the pitch would help ensure a healthy lifestyle for its students as well as the city’s residents.

“The Playing Pitch Strategy for Exeter has identified a lack of facilities for the local and wider area,” a spokesperson for the college said.

“This is stopping local rugby clubs developing more teams, particularly for women and girls.

“The new 3G pitch will help to address this concern, as it will be available when other facilities may be out of action due to the weather.”

The new facilities, once complete, will be available for local teams in the same way as the college’s existing facilities are, and available for hire in the evenings and weekends when they aren’t being used by the college.

Extinction Rebellion believes few people know the new scheme will be surrounded by a three-metre-high fence, and that public feeling about what it calls a “plastic pitch” are negative.

Exeter College said, however, that it is “taking every step possible to ensure the project would enhance wildlife” – including by planting new trees and a wildflower grassland.

Furthermore, it said the pitch has been designed using the “highest environmental standards and uses the latest materials and techniques” to minimise its impact in use and at the end of its life.

The synthetic turf will use a single polymer construction, which the college said is “fully recyclable”, rather than latex.

The pitch will use also 100 per cent natural wood pellets, which can be recycled, rather than rubber crumb, which is conventionally used on such pitches, and sand will also be used.

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